Changing your Legal Name and the Gender Marker on Official Documents in Indiana
Justice Unlocked is focused on providing legal services that help Hoosiers avoid unemployment, homelessness, negative interactions with law enforcement, and other drivers of poverty, inequality, and injustice. One such service we provide is assistance changing your legal name and correcting your gender marker on official documents. This process allows transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to obtain birth certificates, identification, and other official documents that reflect their preferred name and their gender identities, making interactions with authorities such as employers, landlords, schools, and law enforcement safer and less invasive of their privacy.
Changing your legal name and gender marker in Indiana can sometimes be a simple process, but it is not always straightforward, and the help of an attorney familiar with Indiana’s courts can make the process easier and safer. If you have already changed your name to reflect your gender identity, you can file a petition to correct just your gender marker. Similarly, a change of name is available on its own, which can be appropriate for individuals who are not ready to change their gender marker or who are non-binary, as no Indiana court has yet granted an order to correct a birth certificate to a gender other than Male or Female.
Changing Your Legal Name and Gender Marker Through a Court
The Court of Appeals of Indiana has set a liberal standard for what constitutes a proper purpose for changing your legal name and gender marker, and you should be able to do so if your petition is made in good faith and not for a fraudulent or unlawful purpose. Although courts in different counties may vary in their interpretation of Indiana law, you should not be required to undergo any surgery to receive an order changing your legal name and gender marker. Proof that you have undergone a transition with the assistance of a licensed physician is always helpful in showing the court that you meet this good-faith standard, but hormone therapy is also not an absolute requirement. Your testimony about your identity and transition, as well as the support of affidavits from counselors and doctors, is often sufficient for a petition to be granted. However, an attorney is always helpful in court, as they will be able to guide you through the process, prepare filings, organize your testimony, and argue your case to the judge.
The Indiana statute that allows you to change your legal name also requires that you publish notice of your name change in a local newspaper. This requirement is intended to prevent people from changing their name to avoid debts, criminal charges, and other responsibilities, but it can in reality expose transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to unwanted and dangerous public scrutiny. However, a lawyer can try to have the court to waive this requirement and seal the record of the case by explaining and having you testify to the specific harms you would face due to the existence of public records about your gender identity. You must also contact any creditors you have, such as for credit cards, loans, or other debts, and tell them that you plan to change your name and gender marker.
You must contact the relevant government agencies to correct government documents and licenses, like your birth certificate, Social Security card, or driver’s license. You will also want to contact banks, credit card companies, schools, and other important institutions where you have accounts or registrations in your name to make sure that they know you have changed your name and gender. A lawyer can also assist with ensuring that these parties receive proper notification.
The Indiana Judiciary’s website has forms to assist you in filing a petition to change your legal name. However, the assistance of an attorney will be very helpful if you also wish to change your gender marker or do not want to publish your name change, as those cases typically require more detailed legal argument, evidence, and testimony.
Correcting Your Other Official Documents
Once you have a court order that changes your legal name and gender marker, you can receive a corrected birth certificate, Indiana driver’s license, social security card, passport, and other official documents issued by the state and federal governments. A corrected birth certificate is the best first step, as many other agencies will require you to submit either a court order, a birth certificate, or both to receive corrected documents.
Steps You Can Take Without Going to Court
While you cannot currently change the gender marker on your birth certificate without an order from a court, you can correct the gender marker on your driver’s license with the help of the doctor who is assisting with your transition. Your doctor can fill out the BMV’s Physician’s Statement of Gender Change or write a letter affirming that you “underwent all treatment necessary to permanently change” your gender, which can be filed with the BMV to get a corrected driver’s license. More information about this process is available on the BMV’s website.
With a corrected driver’s license, you can correct your gender marker on some other official documents, but without a court order that allows you to change your birth certificate, you may be left with inconsistent documents, which can cause many of the same problems as having documents that do not show your preferred name and your correct gender. A court order is the best way to make sure you can correct all of your official documents, and an attorney is not only able to represent you in court, but can also make sure that you fill out the proper forms and provide all the necessary documentation to the government agencies that issue official documents.
If you are a resident of Monroe County or the surrounding counties (Lawrence, Greene, Owen, Morgan, or Brown), Justice Unlocked may be able to represent you in getting your legal name changed and correcting the gender markers on official documents. If you live in another Indiana county, we may be able to refer you to other resources or provide Pro Se Plus services to prepare you to represent yourself in court.
Justice Unlocked is committed to helping all Hoosiers, and we are sensitive to the specific needs of transgender and gender non-conforming clients. We understand that the process of obtaining legal recognition of your identity can be difficult and stressful, but it can also be an affirming and important part of your transition. To see if we can represent you, please call us at (812) 269-8277 or submit a request on our website.
This article is not legal advice. Last edited April 7, 2017. Laws can change and the law around legal name and gender marker changes is developing very quickly. Make sure you have up-to-date information. You should always speak to an attorney before filing your petition in court.
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