Court Filings

Changing Your Legal Gender with a Maryland Court

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is “legal” gender?
Who can get a legal gender change in Maryland?
Can I get a legal gender change if I am under 18?
Can I still change my gender marker on my driver’s license or my passport even if I do not get a legal gender change?
How do you get a “legal” gender change?
Do I need a lawyer to change my gender?
How much does a legal gender change cost?
I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?
Do I really have to go to court?
Where do I file my legal gender change request?
What can I expect at the clerk’s office?
Will the court contact me during the review process?
How long will it take for the court to grant the legal gender change?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is “legal” gender?

When you were born, the gender assigned to you on your birth certificate is considered your “legal” gender for some purposes. It is likely that this gender marker continues to be used on official documents, such as Social Security, court records, and your state-issued ID, learner’s permit, or driver’s license.

Who can get a legal gender change in Maryland?

Maryland residents or people with Maryland birth certificates can request a legal gender change. You do not need to be currently living in Maryland.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Maryland currently has a “surgical requirement.” This means that the legal gender change requests are only available to people who have had surgery related to their transition.

Can I get a legal gender change if I am under 18?

The law does not include any rules for minors (people under 18). It is likely that the process would be the same. However, because minors cannot submit court documents on their own, your parent would have to file the request for you. If you have another parent or legal guardian, he or she would have to give written consent.

Also, keep in mind that Maryland requires a person to have surgery before requesting a legal gender change.

Can I still change my gender marker on my driver’s license or my passport even if I do not get a legal gender change?

Yes! Some official documents, such as your State-issued driver’s license, state-issued ID, Social Security card, and passport can be changed without getting a court order. Click here to go to the section on how you can change your gender marker on these documents without surgery or a court order.

How do you get a “legal” gender change?

Maryland Circuit Courts will issue a “gender change decree,” or an official document stating that your legal gender has been changed. You can ask the court to change your gender by completing a petition (a written request) asking the court to change your gender. You will also need to submit a copy of your birth certificate and a letter from your physician stating that you have had surgery. If you are a minor (under 18) your parents will have to write the petition for you.

You then submit these documents to the Circuit Court in your county, along with a fee (or a fee waiver.)

The judge assigned to your petition will then mail you a notice of a hearing. You may be asked to come to the court and answer a few questions about your petition. After the hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to grant your legal gender change.
Unfortunately, the law in Maryland is not very clear. There are no instructions or forms available from the courts on the “right” way to request a legal change of gender.

Do I need a lawyer to change my gender?

No. You can file the petition yourself. However, because the process can be confusing, you may feel more comfortable having a lawyer help you and go with you to court. For more information about getting a lawyer, contact FreeState Legal Project for additional assistance.

How much does a legal gender change cost?

It costs $155 to submit your petition to the court.

I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?

People who cannot afford the fees can ask the court for a “waiver,” which means you do not have to pay them. If you would like information about this, contact FreeState Legal Project.

Do I really have to go to court?

Sometimes a judge will agree to skip the hearing. Contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Where do I file my legal gender change request?

Legal gender change petitions should be filed (turned in) at the clerk’s office at the Circuit Court in the county where you live. A list of Circuit Courts can be found here.

You can file the petition by taking it to the court yourself, or you can mail it. If you are paying the court fees, you should pay them at the same time you turn in or mail your petition. Some courts have rules about what types of payment they will accept. We recommend you contact the Circuit Court in your county about how to make your payment

.

What can I expect at the clerk’s office?

You will file the gender change petition at the clerk’s office in the Circuit Court. If you are asking for directions within the courthouse, keep in mind that many people are not familiar with “legal gender change.” It might be easier to ask where to go to file a “legal name change.” Both of these types of petitions will be filed with the same person.

Bring two copies of all of your documents. You will give your payment and one copy of the petition to the clerk. Ask them to stamp the second copy and give it back to you for your records.

Some clerks may not have heard of “legal gender change.” However, clerks should treat all visitors with respect, regardless of what type of matter they are filing. If you feel that you were not treated with respect by a clerk when trying to file a name change, contact FreeState Legal Project.

If you are mailing the petition to the court, send your payment and two copies as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. Include a note requesting that the clerk mail you a stamped copy. Make sure to tell them where to mail the copy .

Will the court contact me during the review process?

The court may send your additional documents BEFORE granting the gender change. For instance, if you request the court to waive court costs, the court will mail you a notice of its decision about that request.
Additionally, the judge may request that you come to court for a hearing. The court will send you a notice of the date and time of this hearing by mail. If you do not appear for the hearing, your petition will be dismissed (not granted.)

If you receive a document from the court that you do not understand, contact FreeState Legal Project.

How long will it take for the court to grant the legal gender change?

It will likely take several months from beginning to end. It depends on the caseload in your jurisdiction.

What will I need to do once my legal gender change is granted?

When the court approves your gender change request, you will receive several certified copies of your gender change decree. You can use this to change your birth certificate.

If you have not already changed your gender marker on your Social Security card, MVA driver’s license, license or ID card, or passport. (Note that you do not need to wait for you legal gender change decree to be granted in order to change these documents.)

Changing Your Name with a Maryland Court

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “legal” name?
My friends and family already call me by my preferred name. Do I need to get a “legal” name change?
Who can get a legal name change in Maryland? Is it only for trans people?
Can I get my name changed if I am under 18?
How can I get a legal name change?
Do you have to hire a lawyer to change your name?
How much does a name change cost?
I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?
Do I really have to publish my name change in a newspaper?
Where do I file my name change request?
What can I expect at the clerk’s office?
Will the court contact me during the review process?
How long will it take for the court to grant the name change?
What will I need to do once my name is changed?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “legal” name?

When you were born, the name given to you on your birth certificate was your “legal” name. It is likely that this name continues to be used on all official documents, such as Social Security, court records, and your state-issued ID, learner’s permit, or driver’s license.

My friends and family already call me by my preferred name. Do I need to get a “legal” name change?

This is your choice. Some people are satisfied with using their preferred name with friends and family. Some schools or employers will also agree to use your preferred name on school records or paystubs.
However, without a legal name change, you may not be able to have your preferred name on your State-issued ID or driver’s license, your passport, or other official documents .

Who can get a legal name change in Maryland? Is it only for trans people?

Any Maryland resident of any age can get a legal name change. You do not need to have been born in Maryland to get a name change, but you need to have lived in Maryland for at least one year.

You can change your name for any reason except for “fraudulent purposes.” This means you cannot change your name so that you can try to pretend to be someone else, like a celebrity, or to avoid paying back a loan.

Can I get my name changed if I am under 18?

Yes. The process for getting a minor’s (under 18) name changed is basically the same for an adult. However, the form is a little different, because minors cannot file petitions with the court. A parent or legal guardian has to file the petition for you. If you have a second parent or legal guardian, he or she also has to give written consent to the name change .

How can I get a legal name change?

Maryland Circuit Courts will issue “name change decrees,” or an official document stating that your legal name has been changed. You can ask the court to change your name by filling out a form (also called a “petition”). If you are a minor (under 18) your parents will have to fill out forms as well. You then submit these forms to the Circuit Court in your county, along with a fee (or a fee waiver.) There will not be a trial.

The judge assigned to your court will then send you a notice that you have to place an ad in the classified section of a local newspaper stating that you are changing your name. Depending on the county, the newspaper might notify the judge that the ad has been placed, or you may have to notify the judge yourself. The judge will wait 30 days after the ad has been placed to see if anyone objects to your name change. If no one does, then the judge will review your petition and order that your name be legally changed. You will get an official document (a name change decree) in the mail .

DIY

For adults (over 18 years old) — Maryland Court instructions for name change

For adults (over 18 years old) — Example of the name change petition

For minors (under 18 years old) — Maryland Court instructions for name change 

For minors (under 18 yaers old) — Example of the name change petition 

Do you have to hire a lawyer to change your name?

No. You can file the petition yourself using the information provided by the court (see above.) However, if you find the process or the forms confusing, you can contact FreeState Legal Project for additional assistance.

How much does a name change cost?

It costs $155 to submit your petition to the court. The cost of the classified ad you place in your local newspaper will vary depending on where you live. In Baltimore City, for instance, it costs $84.

I cannot afford the fees. What should I do?

People who cannot afford the fees can ask the court for a “waiver,” which means you do not have to pay them. If you would like information about this, contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Do I really have to publish my name change in a newspaper?

Sometimes a judge will agree to skip the requirement that you put an ad in the newspaper. Contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Where do I file my name change request?

Name changes should be filed (turned in) at the clerk’s office at the Circuit Court in the county where you live. Click here for a list of Circuit Courts and their addresses.

You can file the petition by taking it to the court yourself, or you can mail it. If you are paying the court fees, you should pay them at the same time you turn in or mail your petition. Some courts have rules about what types of payment they will accept. We recommend you contact the Circuit Court in your county about how to make your payment.

What can I expect at the clerk’s office?

  • If you plan to deliver your petition in person, bring two copies of your petition to the courthouse. You will file the name change at the clerk’s office in the Circuit Court. Some courts may direct you to a specific office within the court, such as the Civil Division or the Family Division office. You will give your payment and one copy of the petition to the clerk. Ask them to stamp the second copy and give it back to you for your records.
  • If you are mailing the petition to the court, send your payment and two copies as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope. Include a note requesting that the clerk mail you a stamped copy. Make sure to tell them what address to mail the copy to.

Clerks should treat all visitors with respect, regardless of what type of matter they are filing. If you feel that you were not treated with respect by court staff when trying to file a name change, contact FreeState Legal Project for more information.

Will the court contact me during the review process?

The court may send your additional documents BEFORE granting the name change. For instance, if you request the court to waive court costs or the newspaper publication, the court will mail you a notice of its decision about these requests. If you are required to publish the name change, you will want to watch your mail for information from the court or the newspaper about publication.
Additionally, judges may occasionally ask for additional information from you when considering the petition. It is very important that you respond immediately to these requests, since they may be time-sensitive requests.

If you receive a document from the court that you find confusing, contact FreeState Legal Project for assistance.

How long will it take for the court to grant the name change?

It will likely take several months from beginning to end. It depends on how busy the court is where you live.

What will I need to do once my name is changed?

When the court approves your name change, you will receive several certified copies of your name change decree. You will need to update your name on your:

  • Social Security Card
  • MVA ID or Driver’s License
  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • School records, bank records, etc.

See section on “Changing Your Identity Documents”