Transgender Rights: How to Change Your Name & Gender Marker in New Jersey
Friday, March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual awareness day that is dedicated to not only celebrating transgender people but also to bringing attention to the discrimination that transgender people face every day. This year’s theme is #TransResistance, aimed at focusing on organizing the community against oppression.
We’re contributing to this year’s theme by providing information about one of the most empowering steps a transgender person may decide to take: amending their birth certificate to change their name and their gender to reflect who they truly are!
There are steps that must be taken in the courts here in New Jersey in order to change your birth certificate and the process can be a bit tedious. You can file for a name change on your own, but consider an attorney if you feel confused or overwhelmed by the process.
1. Download the Name Change Packet from the Judiciary Website: Go to www.njcourtsonline.com and visit the forms section. Once there, you can download all the documents needed to file your request with the court:
a. The Verified Complaint: This is where you will let the court know your basic information such as your old name, your new name and your address. You must also tell the court that you are not seeking to change your name to avoid bankruptcy or evading law enforcement. You also inform the court why it is you wish to change your name and the reason could be as simple as you prefer this name and want to have your official documentation reflect that name.
b. Order Fixing Date of Hearing: You must go to court and appear before the judge before your name change can be granted. This document will be used by the judge to set that court date and it will also contain the local newspaper where you must publish notice of your name change request. You must publish notice so that any possible individuals who may oppose your name change can show up and be heard by the court that day. Rest assured this rarely happens.
c. Final Judgment: This form will be used by the judge on the day of your hearing and will be the document that officially allows you to change your name. Again, a newspaper will be designated in this document where you must publish the final judgment.
d. The Civil Case Information Statement: This document is file in every civil court action and is a summary of your case for the court. The document can get a bit complicated so be sure to follow the instructions carefully
2. Send all your completed documents to the court along with your payment of $250.00. If you cannot pay the fee, you can ask for a waiver based upon financial hardship. This is up to the judge. Be sure that you send the originals and one copy along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope so that your filed copies can be returned to you. You will send your documents to your local county courthouse. Addresses for your local superior court are found at www.njcourtsonline.
3. Receive back from the court your filed copies and your Order Fixing Date of Hearing: You will get back your copies filed and with a docket number assigned to your case. You will also get your order that states when your hearing will be held. That date should be within 30 days.
4. Publish your Order Fixing Date of Hearing: When you get back your order, look for the newspaper in which the court instructs you to publish the order, so that the date is locally known. You must publish the order at least 2 weeks before your court date. For help on how to publish, call the newspaper and ask them for the procedure. Once published, the newspaper will send you an affidavit that your order was indeed published. You must mail or bring this affidavit to the court.
5. Appear in Court: You will appear in court on the date found in the Order Fixing Date of Hearing. The process in not complicated and tends to be quick. The judge may ask you about why you wish to change your name and if you are doing so to avoid being arrested or charged with a crime or if you are trying to avoid creditors. Always be honest and do not take offense to the questions; they are asked of everyone seeking a name change. You can simply tell the judge your new name is your preferred name or you can be more detailed, however you are comfortable. You do NOT need to prove any medical documentation relating to your transgender status for a name change. If the judge asks you medical questions, you are free to answer if you feel comfortable, but it is not required of you to give personal medical information.
6. After you are granted your Order for your name change: You must publish your Final Judgment just as you published your Order Fixing Date of Hearing, most likely in the same newspaper. You must do this within 20 days of your receiving your Order from the judge and you must again bring the Affidavit of Publication to the court either via mail or hand-delivery.
7. Send Certified Copies of Your Order to State and Federal Agencies: You must get at least three certified copies (with the gold seal or official stamp) from the court. The certified copies cost $25.00 each. The records request form can be found at www.njcourtsonline.com. You will send certified copies to: Social Security Administration: along with other required documentation for a new social security card. See www.ssa.gov for more information.
Division of Motor Vehicles: Your certified judgment must be brought to your local DMV in person within two weeks of the judgment. This judgment, along with other documents, is required to change your driver’s license. See www.njdmv.gov for more information.
Department of the Treasury: Within 45 days, send your certified judgment along with a check for $50.00 made out to Treasurer, State of New Jersey, so that your judgment can be officially recorded and registered with the State of New Jersey.
Registrar of Vital Statistics: Sending your certified judgment to the Vital Statistics Registrar is how your birth certificate will be amended to reflect your new name and gender. You must send one certified copy of the judgment to the Registrar of the state where you were born.
Any other government agencies or institutions: You may wish to change your passport, other forms of identification, school records, banking records, health insurance, etc.
Transequality.org offers a very detailed and comprehensive guide for name and gender marker change in New Jersey, complete with links to all the support documentation discussed above. If you wish to speak with an attorney regarding the process of name change or to learn more about your rights as a transgender person seeking a name or gender marker change here in New Jersey, please contact us to schedule your confidential consultation with one of our experienced, knowledgeable and professional attorneys, who are familiar with the procedures for name and gender marker changes in the Garden State.