Dec 03, 2021
How to File and Obtain a Name and Gender Change Petition and Order
Dec 03, 2021
By Mark Rice
This year, I was asked by a longtime contractor client if I would help him (now, her) obtain a name and gender change order. The name change was not just from Paul to Paula, but also a last name change, as Paula had been adopted and desired to have the born family last name instead, as well as a change of birth certificate in another state. I said yes, we would help. And we had never done one of these before, much less during the limited court access during COVID-19.
I suppose this was another moment cementing my client relationship with Paula, my own growth curve, not just adding a skill to our office, but really, a better appreciation over what identity is. In a booklet that my now adult daughter gave me one year, on page 34, stating what my dad has given me, she wrote, “the courage to be myself.” And, I thought a lot about that statement while helping Paula with the legal piece for her own courage to be herself. The Court just signed the order last month, and we have 12 certified copies to prove it.
Here is a short conversation among Paula, me and my digital manager, Allison Jacob, who got the assignment to do the research, prepare the forms, and interface with the Court to get the name and gender change order accomplished for Paula. It walks you through all the steps, the fees, and the surrounding tasks beyond the Court – DMV, passport, birth certificate, and Social Security card.
Mark: Paula, what led you to ask us to help you with your gender and name change petition?
Paula: In working through run-of-the-mill construction disputes, you and I had had enough personal conversations that I felt comfortable, and that you would respond positively—first to my announcing my gender and name changes, and then, be willing to help with the legal paperwork. Just a feeling I had. We had talked about my being adopted, my upbringing and feelings about it, and it just felt right to ask.
Mark: Allison, how did you react to getting this assignment to help Paula?
Allison: Both excited and nervous. I had met Paula in the office several months before when you were mediating something. When you told me he was becoming Paula, and then asked if I would be in charge of researching the steps needed, I was proud to help and curious what was involved. It was all new to me. I appreciated the confidence you placed in me, and knew it was important to do right by Paula.
Mark: How did you start? Your research?
Allison: I went to the internet, and found a handful of really good resources: www.courts.ca.gov/22489.htm for the forms, http://transequality.org/documents, and even a good YouTube video, “How to: Name and Gender Marker Change in California,” by one of the law students at UC Berkeley’s Name and Gender Change Workshop (NGCW), which is staffed by law students. California courts’ self-help website has a section on gender change as well. There were some good articles on how to navigate the forms, which the State Judicial Council recently simplified and streamlined. From there, it was working with Paula to get a few details, plus a medical doctor’s declaration.
Mark: What about ID documents, such as birth certificate and driver’s license – is that automatic once there is a name and gender change or does that entail more forms and paperwork?
Allison: Well…more forms and paperwork, of course. If the client was born in California, once the Petition for Name and Gender Change is granted by the court, a certified copy should be sent to the California Department of Public Health, Vital Records – MS 5103 PO Box 997410, Sacramento, CA 95899-7410. Paula was born in Illinois so she is submitting the certified copy there for birth certificate change. There is going to be a fee for that as well. In California, see www.cdph.ca.gov. The fee currently is $23 for birth certificate change and includes one certified copy; pay $25 at time of application for each additional certified copy requested. Per CDPH’s website, it takes six to eight weeks to process. The forms needed are a VS-20 and VS-24, plus the certified court order.
Mark: Allison, what about DMV – how does that work?
Allison: Well, and this is pretty interesting, the DMV in California will permit you to change your name and gender without a court order. To do so, go to www.dmv.ca.gov. A good resource here is transgenderlawcenter.org/resources/id/id-change. Two forms are needed – DL-329S for gender (male, female or non-binary), and DL-44 for name change. DMV charges a $38 fee and the process can be done online, it seems. Also, usually, the DMV will want proof of a new name and it seems they want you to present your new Social Security number and card – so that’s one more name change to carry out so the client’s Social Security benefits are properly tracked after the name and gender change. Here’s that website: KA-01981 Customer Self-Service. Here again, a certified copy of the court order is needed, or, this change in Social Security number and card can occur based on the change in birth certificate, driver’s license and passport. There does not appear to be any fee with the Social Security Administration.
Mark: Sounds tricky and circular – right, Allison? Man, my head spins just counting the number of forms, much less filling them out. You know how much I hate paperwork. Thank goodness you managed this, not me.
Allison: Yep. It was a bit confusing at first and it needed lists. It’s a big puzzle of sorts between all the agencies you need to contact and their forms. Just as an example, DMV’s website seems to suggest that you have to change your Social Security card first, otherwise, DMV will deny your driver’s license change. Here’s the language from DMV’s website:
When you apply for a new DL/ID card using your new name, the first thing DMV will do is verify your information with SSA, so make sure you have informed SSA of your new name.
If your SSA information does not match your new DL/ID application information, your application will be denied, and you will receive a Request for Verification of Information letter from DMV telling you what to do.
Mark: Okay, good to know. Typical DMV. But what about the passport – more forms and fees?
Allison: (Lol) Yeah, that’s right Mark, more forms and fees. You take a certified copy of the court order to the U.S. Passport Office—one’s in San Francisco—and fill out a form called DS-60, Affidavit of Name Change. The fee for the new passport is $110 to the U.S. Passport Office, or $140 if you also want a Passport Card in addition to a Booklet Passport (the Card also serves as a “real ID”) and requires passport photos as well. All on the website, Name Change for U.S. Passport or Correct a Printing or Data Error. Sometimes a local post office will receive and process passport applications, but the fastest way to get this done is make an appointment directly with the U.S. Passport Office; its usually two in-person visits – one to drop off the new application and old passport, and then a few days later, to pick up the newly issued passport.
Mark: Allison, what does the U.S. Passport Office say about non-binary gender markers, beyond “Female” and “Male” descriptors?
Allison: Yes, this here is where it’s getting really interesting – maybe political? According to the U.S. Passport Office website, you can change your identification without any court order, as a matter of personal preference, choice and “gender marker”. But the US Passport Office has only said it’s trying to implement the new rule, and has yet to update its forms and apologizes sort of for not having it done yet – sort of hard to say what that means. Maybe it means this is mired in Washington politics:
You can now select the gender you would like printed on your U.S. passport, even if the gender you select does not match the gender on your supporting documentation such as a birth certificate, previous passport, or state ID. We no longer require medical certification to change the gender marker on your U.S. passport.
To request a new passport with a different gender than the one you have on your current passport, or if you are applying for your first passport, submit a new application and select your preferred gender marker. Follow the steps on this page to learn which form to submit. You can select “M” or “F” which are the gender markers currently available. We are working to add a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons as soon as possible.
Plans for a Gender Marker for Non-Binary, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Persons
We are taking further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex. We are beginning the process of updating our procedures for the issuance of U.S. passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBAs) with the goal of offering a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons. The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is complex and will take time for extensive updates to our information technology (IT) systems.
We cannot provide an exact timeline for when we will begin offering a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming persons. However, we will provide updates on this webpage. In the meantime, applicants should not apply for a passport with a non-binary, intersex, or gender non-conforming gender marker.
Mark: Hmm…geez, this seems like doubletalk, since the California Bar pretty easily has expanded its gender marker elections when renewing a law license. California in 2017 was the first state to permit gender-neutral or non-binary gender markers in vital statistics and identification, with passage of SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act. Here's a good article about the Act. And, this U.S. federal webpage saying “gender non-conforming persons” seems a bit pejorative, don’t you think? Like it’s saying, only male and female selections are “conforming,” otherwise you are “nonconforming”? I detect a little bias there…the whole point is that we conform to who we are, no longer to what others say we “should be” or say we are.
Allison: Yep, gotcha, Marco. It does seem that the language is lagging—not quite catching up to the reality of folks’ identities and choices. It seems the Passport Office could have written, “and other gender markers and recognition.” I mean, why call anyone “non-conforming” in a blurb about making the form more receptive to everyone conforming to themselves, not forced anymore into solely “F” or “M” categories if they don’t neatly fit? Bugs me.
Mark: Okay, right. So, let’s leave Washington and return to the meat and potatoes of the required California Judicial Council forms and our petition. Which are the forms needed? And the court fees?
Allison: They are pretty simple and you can download them all from www.courts.ca.gov:
- NC-200, Petition for Change of Name, Recognition of Change of Gender, and Issuance of New Birth Certificate; NC-100, Attachment to Petition;
- NC-125/NC-225, Order to Show Cause for Change of Name to Conform to Gender Identity;
- NC-230, Decree Changing Name and Order Recognizing Change of Gender Identity and for Issuance of Birth Certificate (for signature by the Judge);
- CM – 010, Civil Cover Sheet;
- NC-310 - No longer needed - Declaration of Treating Medical Physician under the Health & Safety Code, this can be on the Declaration Form (NC-310) or as an attachment, as long as it has the required language and is under penalty of perjury by the doctor. It used to be required under Health & Safety Code Sections 10340-103433, but no longer. But we had one anyway. The clerk told me when we filed the petition this form was no longer needed, but that really was not very clear anywhere in the form instructions. But no harm to have it since instinctively, it was required, and you just want the petition granted without questions, and a “doctor’s note” form NC-310 exists, so we used it.
Mark: Okay. That’s a bunch. And how easy were those forms to fill out?
Allison: Fairly simple. Paula provided the biographical information, like location and date of birth, reasons for the name change, and the doctor’s affidavit. It has to be signed by the petitioner, not just the attorney. It can be done without an attorney. Just file with the $435 filing fee and added $40 for each additional certified copy needed (one copy will be provided, but more are needed -see above. I recommend at least 10).
And if it’s just a gender change and not a name change, it’s the same forms except for an NC-300 instead of an NC-200. Those who cannot afford the filing fees can apply for a fee waiver at the court.
Mark: Paula, looking back on this, from a customer experience, how could it have gone smoother, better?
Paula: Well, and you explained this, with COVID-19 making in-person clerk visits impossible, it was hard to know how long this was going to take. We submitted it in April and got the order in August, so four months, and we each had to make some calls to see what was up. So that was a bit unexpected. I thought even with COVID-19, two months, max. So, I was pretty far along as a woman before the paperwork caught up, the order that is, to who I had become, and really was.
Allison: Yes, I agree with Paula. In fact, with the new streamlined forms, when I called to see the status, the clerk did mention that they were not sure exactly if more was needed. As in, they too were left without a lot of guidance on when it's ready to have the judge sign, after the objection period is over. Today, once the forms are filed and a notice filed – to solicit any objections – if none, there is no court hearing needed. So, it sat a bit while the Court staff was itself verifying everything was in order. It was, but even they were not exactly sure and that led to some delay, plus all the COVID-19 processing delays. It helped a lot that the clerk’s office opened back up in June by appointment, so I could talk in person with a clerk and iron anything out, quickly, within a day or two.
Mark: Well, so I add it up, just court and filing fees, its $435 to the court, $40 per each added certified copy, $38 to DMV, $140 to the U.S. Passport Office, $23 for a new birth certificate, $25 for each added certified copy of a birth certificate, and some postage and legwork. Maybe $750 total unless the court filing fee gets waived. Allison, could a person do this by themselves, in pro per, self-represented? Can it be done?
Allison: Absolutely. It takes some patience reading the forms and instructions, but there are many resources out there now aimed at helping people with these forms, plus clinics like at UC Berkeley that are specialized self-help clinics just for name and gender change and gender marker documentation. And we have the Legal Self-Help Center also, at the Civic Center: Marin County Superior Court – Legal Self-Help Center. So yes, it can be done.
Paula: Don’t forget – I’m married, so I also had to change our marriage certificate, to now reflect my legal name. That was another step.
Mark: Yes – I looked it up, as this piece Paula you took care of on your own with your spouse. Back to California’s Name Equality Act of 2017. You submit your request with a certified copy of your name change court order to the California Department of Public Health, Vital Records, and the County Clerk/Recorder where the marriage license was issued, and indicate the desired name change. It’s no different than when someone keeps their maiden name upon marriage, or decides after marriage to adopt the other spouse’s last name, or change back to the last name before marriage. A request coupled with proof of legal name change should do it.
Mark: Paula, any final thoughts on this, so others can learn about what you just got done?
Paula: I appreciated your and Allison’s help. There is so much to gender change, from medical, to telling people, to life changes and spiritual journey, to self. It was good to have this one less thing that I had to do in the midst of my own personal changes and evolution of who I really am. And, it also was nice to have your and Allison’s support along the way for my own decision to change gender and name. Allison would kid and laugh telling me that you sometimes slipped back to “Paul” and she’d correct you and you’d mutter, “I know, darn it, working on it.” We all are.
List of Resources:
National Center for Transgender Equality information, self-help guides, documentation information
As an attorney since 1986, Mark Rice has over 450 days in trials and arbitrations, in addition to mediations. Mr. Rice’s trial experience includes all matters of business disputes, with a specialty in construction disputes in the public and private works sectors, bid disputes, real estate, complex business torts, collections, and employer defense related matters for corporate and business clients. Mr. Rice serves as corporate counsel to many small to mid-size firms, drafts contracts, and performs corporate compliance reviews, acting as a go to advisor for daily troubleshooting or strategic mapping against risk. In addition to his corporate, litigation and trial work, Mr. Rice has written and presented seminars on mechanics liens, bonds and stop notices, is a member of trade organizations such as the AGC Legal Advisory Committee, and is involved in community and nonprofit organizations.