Legal Name/Gender Changes in California in January 2019

So I’ve been helping some friends get their legal name+gender or name-only changes done in California, and pretty much all the resources I’ve found have been scattered and some have inaccurate information (no! physician! letters! anymore!), including court websites and trans help websites… so!  I typed up a whooooole guide that I absolutely cannot promise to update/keep current BUT as of January 13, 2019 is pretty accurate.

I’m not a lawyer, reach out to the Transgender Law Center or your local superior court with questions!  Also sorry but I didn’t do a gender-only change set, but for that you apparently do a CM-010 cover form and NC-300, NC-310, NC-320 instead of any other NC forms.  No experience there though!

Most importantly, fee waivers! You can have all your court filing fees AND one-to-three (maaayyybe five?? unsure exact number, may vary by county) certified copy charges waived if you qualify through a fee waiver. You automatically qualify if you’re receiving government services like Medi-Cal, Food Stamps (CalFresh), Cal-Works, General Assistance, SSI, SSP, Tribal TANF, IHHS or CAPI, or if your income is under a certain limit. Otherwise, you fill in your income and household expenses, and if your gross income is already less than your expenses you qualify, and if it isn’t then the court weighs up if paying the court fees ($450 in SF, $425 most elsewhere) would make you unable to afford your basic needs. When I filed, I qualified as a part-time employed student, so it’s super worth doing.

You fill out this first form, Fee Waiver (FW-001):
[it has further info/instructions here:]

You also fill out the top of this form for the court to complete when they decide whether to grant the fee waiver or not; this is an Order to Waive Fees (FW-003):
[it has instructions here:]

And that’s the fee waiver done!

Now, the rest varies depending on if you want to do just a name change or if you want to do a gender and name change simultaneously, but the only real difference is what forms you use. As long as you assert the name change is to conform to gender identity, there is no requirement to publish it in a newspaper for four weeks and there is no requirement to have a public hearing; instead, it’s just listed on the court website, and while a hearing date is scheduled, you only have to show up if someone files a timely written objection, as without one the petition will be approved without a hearing. So it’s definitely worthwhile to specify that a name change is for gender reasons, as there are protections in place.

Both ways, you need a CM-010 cover form:
[the Sacramento court has a really good resource showing how to fill these out, just change the court info at the top:]

Also both ways, you’ll need a Name Change 110, NC-110:
Under “reason for name change,” I suggest putting “To conform to gender identity” if you want the publishing/hearing exemptions; otherwise, “Aesthetic preference” is a good catch-all.

And if you’re filing the name change as for gender reasons, then both ways you’ll need an NC-125/NC-225 (same form with a dual name). So only don’t do this form if you’re not requesting the publishing/hearing exemptions. This form is how the court says someone has to object in writing or else your petition will be granted; you just fill in the top – don’t date and sign at the bottom, that’s for the judge.
Now the difference is the 100-series for name change only, and the 200-series for gender and name change together.

So, a name change only is NC-100 and NC-120, and if you’re filing it as for gender reasons then also the NC-125/NC-225 (that’s one form). The 100 is your petition, and the 120 is the order that the court will fill out if it grants your petition, so on the 120 you only really fill in the header and then your names so nobody else spells them wrong.
[further instructions for NC-100 here:]

For a gender and name change it’s NC-200 and NC-230. Again, the 200 is your petition. The 230 is the (updated, so the number changed from 220) order the court will fill out, and you fill out the header and parts 4 & 5 with your names and gender marker.

And that’s it for forms!

To submit, you want to put them in order with the CM-010 cover sheet on top, then the NC-100 or -200, then the NC-110, then the NC-125/NC-225 if you’re using it, then the NC-120 or NC-230, and then the FW-001 and the FW-003 at the end.

You need one original and two copies of every sheet, preferably paperclipped (not stapled!) together per set. Now, I think it might vary as to holepunching – Sacramento court wants a “standard two-holepunch” on everything submitted, which I think is along the top edge but I’m honestly not sure. The San Francisco court website says nothing about this. I handled mine in Yolo county when I went in person, but if you want to mail it in I would be sure to doublecheck their holepunching requirements somehow, by internet or phone.

And yeah! They should call you, but don’t always, so you may have to call them to get a status update on whether you have a hearing or not. (And you can put the case name on the forms, which is “In re: [CurrentLegalName]” but I believe you don’t have the case number until it’s submitted.)

I hope that’s helpful and not too daunting!  For questions, try the Transgender Law Center, which has always really helped me; their guides are here (but some of the links are broken, and some of the advice is a little outdated – you don’t need physician letters anymore!):

Also at the DMV, you can just change your gender marker (not name, unfortunately) without any court or physician documents, just by filling out a form DMV-329S saying it’s not for fraudulent purpose but to affirm gender identity, and by filling out a driver’s license application DL-44. Apparently the 329S isn’t available online; I got mine in-person on paper after scheduling an appointment, and did the DL-44 on their computers. Here’s what their website has to say:

Once your name change is done, you basically just take a certified copy of the Order of Name Change around to different agencies to get your name updated. That part of the TLC’s ID Please guide is still pretty accurate. A few places need to keep a certified copy (Social Security, mainly), while most (I believe the DMV) just need to make/take a photocopy or sometimes (like a bank) to just see it.

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