Hello everyone: I’m starting a “How To” page on my blog for parents that have transgender children, and also for anyone who is a transgender ally.
HOW TO INITIATE A NAME CHANGE FOR A MINOR CHILD IN GEORGIA
*Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. What follows is my experience changing my minor daughter’s name in Georgia, a process I completed on my own. I am writing from memory and my copy of my documents. Your steps could possibly be different depending on what county in Georgia you live.
You do not need a lawyer for an uncomplicated name change; however, if you have complicated or extenuating circumstances, you may need a lawyer or advice from someone who has experience with your same situation. It may take extra research or phone calls to the appropriate government agency.
**If you are interested in the time-line for a name change and/or a sample cost in my case, scroll to the bottom.
***Scroll through bold headings if you are looking for specific information.
WHY DO MANY TRANSGENDER PERSONS CHOOSE TO CHANGE THEIR NAMES?
When my daughter came to me to ask to change her name from a masculine name to a feminine one, I wasn’t shocked as she had gone by feminine names for years as her handle in video games. The hard part was telling her dad who had named her after himself with Jr. as her suffix. I knew that had to be hard for him for her to reject the name he had given her. I tried to understand his disappointment and hurt but hoped in time he would come to understand that only our daughter could define herself. A person’s name is such a big part of that. Plus, a masculine name attached to the physical appearance of someone who looks female (and vice versa-female/male) would open our daughter up to the possibility of discrimination and make her vulnerable to those that would choose to hate or intend her harm.
The process of changing her name was not a difficult one, but it did take some time and patience is required! And, the joy/shock on her face when at last she had the court order in her hand, was priceless and worth every step!!
As parents we must learn to see beyond our expectations of what we desire for our children’s future and way of life. To truly love our children, supporting them and helping them to express on the outside what they feel deep on the inside is the key including their outward name. It seems like an oxymoron at first because we are saying it is the inside that matters, not the outside (yet the child wants to change the outside); but how someone chooses to express themselves on the outside reflects their inner self. If their biological body does not reflect what they know to be true on the inside, then they experience gender dysphoria. Their biological developing body is very upsetting to them.
WHERE DO I GO TO CHANGE MY NAME IN GEORGIA?
Name changes in Georgia are filed with the Clerk of Court in the county in which you live, specifically the Superior Court of Georgia. Filing a name change is also called: filing a petition. You are petitioning the court to change your child’s name. Each county has its own Clerk of Court, procedures and forms, but the process is the same. You do not need a lawyer to file for a name change. Although there are several steps that require you to be detail oriented, you can do it.
STEP 1 Locate your county Clerk of Court, Superior Court Website
Identify with a Google search your county’s Clerk of Court Website for the Superior Court. For example, I would type into Google because I live in Carroll County: Carroll County GA Superior Court or Clerk of Court Carroll County GA or Carroll County GA Name Change. (substitute your county name) You are petitioning the court for a name change. So, you could Google, Name Change Petition Carroll County GA
*TIP-I would include GA or spell out Georgia, so you are not directed to another state. There is a Carroll County Maryland I get directed to sometimes.
STEP 2 Locate the correct forms for a name change petition for a minor child
Once you locate the correct Clerk of Court for the Superior Court Website for your county, find the correct name change forms or packet and download them to your computer. There are separate forms to change the name of a minor (a child under the age of 17 in Georgia). Make sure you download and print the right forms, or some counties have fillable forms you can type on. Look for a link on the court menu for forms. Or, look under your county’s court services. If you can’t find the forms, try:
1. Go back to Google and type in: Carroll County (substitute your county name) name change forms or name change petition forms for Carroll County, GA
2. If you still can’t find a link. Call your county Clerk of Court and ask for a link to the forms online.
3. If the forms are not linked online, then you may have to visit your county court house to retrieve the forms. But I would think most county court offices have the forms online. Mine did and we are a small county.
STEP 3 Read and fill out all of the forms in the name change packet
Read all the forms in your packet to determine the information you will need. There are three main forms.
The first form is the Petition to Change Name(s) of Minor Child(ren).
1. The government is picky – use black ink.
2. The person who is filing for the name change is the Petitioner.
3. You must be the legal guardian of the child whom you are petitioning for.
4. If you are a couple, chose one of you to file. The other parent will submit a signed statement agreeing to the name change. Type up or hand-write a simple statement with title Exhibit A. Have your partner sign the statement and attach it to the petition (don’t staple).
5. If you have full custody, you will still probably need the statement and signature of the child’s father if known. Below read: Notice of Petition to Change Name. This form addresses a notice you must run in your local paper giving an interested party time to come forward and object to your petition.
6. You will have to provide a reason. Keep it simple. For example: John desires to change her name to Jane as she transitions from male to female to reflect outwardly who she is authentically on the inside. Also, she desires for her official identification documents, her school records and her medical record as well as any other documents related to her identification to reflect this name that she has chosen. (Add any other reasons you want.)
The Superior Court cannot deny you a name change for any reason, except if the court deems you are attempting to commit fraud. As long as you have all of the required legal documents, you will be fine.
7. In this section read the choices and chose based on your situation.
8. Sign and date
Example statement Exhibit A (Obviously replace your information with the information listed in the parenthesis, then remove the parenthesis. You are welcome to copy/paste into your own document.)
I (John Doe), the biological (father) of my minor child, (John Doe, Jr.), do hereby give my consent this (22nd) day of (January 2019), to change the name of said minor child from:
(John Doe, Jr.)
John Doe Signature
The second form is the VERIFICATION.
Leave it blank but take it with you. The verification page you will not fill out until you go to the Clerk of Court, Superior Court office at your local county courthouse. The form will be filled out by a notary public.
A notary public will:
1. Witness that you appeared in person
2. Will confirm your identity by you presenting a GA driver’s license or other form of identification (see your county website for what documents they will accept for identity)
3. Watch you sign your name and compare your name to the signature on your identification documents.
4. If s/he is satisfied with your identity s/he will date and sign your verification as well as stamp it with her seal.
See more information about this in Step 4.
The third form is a Notice of Petition to Change Name.
This form is a notice you will take to your local paper to publish once the Clerk of Court has given you a file number. I’ll explain the file number in Step 4. Read the notice. The reason for this notice is to give affected parties (an estranged parent for example) to appear in court and to file objections to your petition. Objections must be filed within 30 days of the court date.
We had not come out publicly to anyone at the time I portioned to change my daughter’s name. At first, I was worried that I had to run this notice. You will be required to run the notice in your local paper once a week for 4 weeks. I do not know of what types of reasons someone would object to your child’s name change. The only reason I can think of for someone to object possibly is an absent parent or possibly a relative (?) would see the notification and object? (If anyone reading this wants to add a comment regarding valid reasons someone might object, your comment would be welcome.)
I decided, that most people do not read this section of the newspaper any way. But, I asked the person at the courthouse who filed my petition if there was an exception for minors for privacy if the other parent had signed the consenting statement. She told me there was not and I had to run the notice. I think this should be changed for the privacy of the child.
Go ahead and fill in all of the blanks. This is just personal information. You can also go ahead and sign this form as no notary is needed.
Take this form with you in your packet.
You should now have the following forms in your packet filled out in black ink.
• Petition to Change Name(s) of Minor Child(ren)
• The Verification
• Notice of Petition to Change Name
Some counties will be able to offer you the option to fill in your forms on your computer or at your county courthouse. If you fill them out at home, print them to take with you. Otherwise follow instructions given by your county.
STEP 4 File your completed paper work with the Clerk of Court, Superior Court
Take your completed documents to your county courthouse to “file” with the Clerk of the Superior Court. File just means you are turning in your petition to the court. Usually you will go through security upon entering the courthouse. You can ask the guards for directions to the Clerk’s Office for the Superior Court. They do not mind. You do not need an appointment.
Once you find the clerk’s office, follow the procedure. When it is your turn, the clerk will make sure all of your paperwork is completed correctly and ask you any necessary questions.
S/he will then direct you to the notary public, aka, a notary, to complete your Verification form. At my courthouse the notary is in the same office. The courthouse in your county should have a notary on site. If you are unsure if your county courthouse has a notary, call ahead. A notary makes your paperwork official and gives it legal weight by determining you are who you say you are and that you are a legal resident in the county and state you are claiming.
The most common form of ID you will present to a notary is your Georgia issued, current Driver’s License. You may not present expired documents. If you do not have a Georgia issued Driver’s License, I would call the notary service you are using, call your county courthouse, or look on your county’s courthouse website to determine what documents they will accept for proof of identity and legal residency. You do have to be a legal resident of the county you are petitioning in. If you just moved to a new location, I would call and ask what the rules are regarding residency.
You may also need to prove you are the parent of your child by presenting their birth certificate. Or, if you are a legal guardian by presenting your court papers. If you have full custody of your child, I would also recommend bringing your official certified copy of your court order.
Once you have your verification notarized, report back to the clerk of superior court.
STEP 5 Pay the required fee
Next, you will need to pay the required fee to file your paperwork. In my county, the fee for a name change is $214.00 (in 2018). My clerk of court would only accept cash as a form of payment. After you pay, the clerk of court will issue you a file number. S/he will then write the assigned file number on each of your documents. S/he will then stamp your paper work with the current date indicating when the petition was filed.
You are finished at the courthouse. Yay!
STEP 6 File a Notice of Petition to Change Name with your local newspaper
In your packet of documents from the courthouse, take out the Notice of Petition to Change Name. Take this to your local newspaper. You are required to run the notice weekly for four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, return to the newspaper and they will issue you an Affidavit of Publication, proving that you ran the notice for the required time. The affidavit will also have a copy of the notice printed in the paper, so you do not have to watch for the notices and clip them out as proof. I stressed about this thinking I had to cut them out as proof. Don’t worry about it, the newspaper is keeping up with when and where they run your public notice. My local paper charged $90.00 to run the notice for four weeks.
I had worried that people I knew would read my notice and send ugly messages or file a protest, but not one message, not one protest was filed. Needless worry on my part.
STEP 7 Take the Affidavit of Publication to the Clerk of Court, Superior Court
Take the Affidavit of Publication you get from your newspaper back to the Clerk of Superior Court at your local courthouse, the same place you filed your name change petition.
The clerk will stamp your affidavit and add it to your petition. S/he will then put your petition on the Civil Court – Non-Jury calendar and give you the court date. S/he will also tell you which judge will hear your case.
You will sign a form letter given to you by the clerk requesting your case be added to the assigned judge’s calendar and regarding other actions based on the type of case the judge is hearing. Read the options and select the appropriate one based on your circumstances. I selected “This case does not involve financial issues or child support consequently I have not filled a DRFA (Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit) or CSW (Child Support Worksheet).”
She will add your letter to your petition case file.
STEP 8 The Clerk of Court, Superior Court, letter sent verifying information for your court date
Closer to the court date, you will receive a letter in the mail requiring you to report to court on the assigned date. The letter confirms the judge assigned to your case, your court date and the type of case being heard. Name changes are civil (non-criminal) court proceedings. The letter explains when to report, where to park, etc. Enclosed, will be a copy of the court calendar. You can see what position you have been assigned – whether your case is heard first, last or somewhere in the middle.
STEP 9 Appear in court
Appear in Court. I prepared a statement to read to the judge because I knew I would be nervous and emotional. This day would mean so much to us, I feared that I would break down and cry losing my words. Also, I tend to ramble if I don’t have a plan.
I had read about cases in Georgia where name changes had been denied, so I also asked our therapist to appear in court with us. She was not able to appear in court, but she did write a letter on my daughter’s behalf. I was prepared to fight for my child.
Turns out, my fears were unfounded. I received the judge’s signed order approving my daughter’s name change petition the day before we were to appear in court, signed February 7, 2018. I didn’t believe it. I called the court to make sure we did not have to appear. I laugh about that now.
Other parents have told me that they did have to appear in court, but I have not talked to anyone who has had a problem with their petition being denied.
I was so excited, I called our therapist. She was thrilled with us! My daughter was shocked at first. I think she could hardly believe it was real. I also wrote a thank you note to our judge. I hope he received it!
Actually, the real work began after this – switching over all her records to her new legal name. Next, changing her gender marker was my goal which was easier than I knew. Look for my next post on changing gender markers.
**You may be wondering how long did all this take? I filed my petition on Dec 14, 2017. My notice of petition ran, Dec 19, Dec 26, Jan 02 and Jan 09. I received my court date on January 19. My court day in front of the judge was set for Feb 13, 2018. My final Court Order signed by the judge was dated, February 07, 2018, and mailed to me. From start to finish, a total of 8 weeks.
TOTAL COST $304.00
Clerk of Court, Superior Court filing fee: $214
Local newspaper fee to file my petition notice for a name change: $90
*notice ran once a week for 4 weeks as required by the Superior Court of Georgia
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