The process of legally changing one’s name and gender is one of the most discussed topics in the trans community. Because each state is different, the process can be somewhat daunting and confusing. It’s not unusual for people to not know where to start. Hopefully with this document and a little bit of time, you can navigate the process a little easier. We’ve separated this in three sections because not everyone is going to update everything the same way. You can change one thing or all of them in the same process. The TL;DR summary is:
- Name Change: Requires a court order from Circuit Court.
- DL/ID Gender Marker: Can be changed with a passport, updated birth certificate, court order, or surgical declaration letter.
- Kentucky Birth Certificate: Can only be changed with a surgical declaration letter.
In the state of Kentucky, adult name changes are handled by the Circuit Court. In major cities, such as Louisville (Jefferson County) and Lexington (Fayette County), this falls under the purview of the court’s Probate Department. This is the same department that handles wills, estates, and other such matters. Additionally, in the case of a minor KRS 401.020 provides that name changes can also be processed in District or Family courts. If you’re a minor or you’re wanting to change the name of a minor in your care, you’ll want to read that law.
How much is this going to cost?
The costs associated with a legal name change in Kentucky are as follows:
- $43.00 — Court Filing fee
- $8.00 — Fee paid to the County Clerk
- $5.00 — Each Certified Copy of the Order
- $0.50 — Each Attested Copy of the Order
- $12 — Duplicate Drivers License or ID card ($20 if you’re due to renew)
- $10 — Certified Birth Certificate
All fees can be paid with cash, check, money order, or credit/debit cards, with the exception of the $8.00 fee payable to the County Clerk. That fee must be paid by a separate check or money order.
Certified orders are needed specifically to update your Birth Certificate, Social Security Administration, and also for the State Department if you have or plan to obtain a Passport. If you’re making changes in person, normally you’ll get your original back. However, it’s recommended to purchase 2-4 copies of the certified order and a couple copies of the Attested order. The attested order can be used at the driver’s license branch, your bank, and other places.
Court Order Process
This is where things vary from county to county. In Jefferson County, you are not required to go in front of a judge in order to have your name changed. It is our understanding that in other counties, that’s not always the case. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to find out which counties do and don’t require a court appearance. The good news is that there is no requirement to publish a public notice of the name change in a newspaper, which not the case in all states. In Jefferson County, you appear in the probate department’s office. You can bring your forms, however computer terminals are provided to fill out the forms and one of the deputy clerks will assist you. You’ll be asked to swear an oath that you are not changing your name to avoid a legal obligation (debts, child support, etc) or evade prosecution. The clerks send it to the judge, and once approved, the ordered copies arrive via mail. The clerks can give an estimate on time, as it’ll depend on the case load and docket.
If you must appear in court in your county, you’ll be assigned a court date and time. On that day, you’ll appear in front of the judge. They will confirm the information with you and render a decision. To find out what process your county uses, you may want to give them a call. If you visit the KY Circuit Court Clerk page, select your county from the drop down menu and their information will be shown.
Likewise, the petition form (AOC-295) is available from KY Courts website. Additionally, an Interactive Name Change Form was located through the Legal Aid Network of Kentucky’s website. We did not verify that site for accuracy, but it may be of use. It’s worth noting that all forms presented to the circuit court must be typed and cannot be handwritten.
Driver’s License Process
Once you have your certified copies, the first place you’ll want to visit is the Social Security Administration. The SSA Name Change must be done in person at your local Social Security Office. There is no online option at the time. Local SSA Offices are available in most cities. You’ll want to take a certified copy of the court order, your existing social security card, and your existing state issued ID. They should be able to update your record and you’ll have a new card mailed out, usually within a couple weeks. You’ll receive a receipt at the end of the transaction. There is no charge for this. You do not need the card when you go to your local driver’s license branch. You do, however, have to wait 24 hours before getting your new license. The Kentucky database only updates with SSA once a day. If you don’t wait the 24 hours, you’ll be turned away.
On the following day, visit your local driver’s license branch, which is part of the Circuit Clerk Office. Provide them with your current license and either a certified or attested copy of the court order. In the event that they do not return it, an attested copy would be prefered, due to the lower cost. The cost for a duplicate license is $12, unless your current license expires within six (6) months. A renewal costs $20. As of today, you should walk out with a new license with your new name on it. In the future, in order to comply with Real ID act standards, you’ll more than likely receive a receipt showing that you have a valid license and your new license will be processed and mailed to you.
Gender Markers on Kentucky issued ID cards continue to be a somewhat sore subject. Without an updated birth certificate, which requires surgical intervention, changing your gender marker on your license is a gray area. If you’ve undergone GRS/GCS, you can provide either a copy of the letter from your physician, updated birth certificate, or a court order. If you have not, the most popular option is to use your passport. The state department will allow you to update the gender marker on your passport by submitting a Gender Designation Change. Using your passport, most circuit court clerk offices will update your driver’s license or ID card with your correct gender marker. However, we’ve never been able to find a publicly posted policy or law regarding this practice. Many people have been turned away, only to be served by a different clerk or visit a different location and have no issues. From information gathered from multiple people, we’ve found that you must have a 10 year Passport to complete this change. Because this process is normally going to entail the clerk or branch manager calling Frankfort, make sure you arrive well before 4:30pm Eastern, even on days where the branch has extended hours. Most of all, don’t get discouraged.
Kentucky Birth Certificates are handled by the (deep breath) Cabinet for Health and Family Services: Department for Public Health – Vital Statistics office. Their website is fairly devoid of useful information. However, KRS 213.121, Section 5 provides that the gender marker on a birth certificate can be updated with proof of surgery. This proof comes in the form of a surgical declaration letter. While the law is vague about what that surgery must entail, the letter requirements are not and are defined under VS-15 GR. The statement must come from the physician indicating that the surgical procedure is complete must include the following:
- Statement on Letterhead
- Date of Gender Reassignment Surgery (Editor: Their verbiage, not ours)
- Physician’s Signature
- Statement Notarized (sealed and stamped)
As the Vital Statistics website doesn’t have much info, they advise everyone to call. Most likely, you can mail in this request. The change request can also be made in person, by visiting the Frankfort office. You should bring a certified copy of the name change order, physician’s letter, and $10 for each certified copy you desire. Inside the office, fill out the birth certificate request form, provide them with your documents, and explain that you are needing to update your name and/or gender marker. If received before 3:00pm Eastern, they complete these changes while you wait. Under normal circumstances, you should walk out with a new birth certificate when you leave. While the law states that the certificate will be noted as amended, that notation does not appear on the certified copy you receive. VS-15 GR wasn’t found on the KY.gov site, we’ve provided a copy that was obtained via e-mail in 2015. Aside from the current governor being different, it’s presumed to be current. File: VS-15 GR – Gender Reassignment Requirements (pdf)
If you have anything you’d like to see added, please contact Addison.