I felt it would be worth laying out the steps I took for getting my name changed in my home state of Michigan (and specifically Wayne County). By cataloging my experience, I hope to show others how they can expect the experience to play out. I am not a lawyer; just consider this what I’ve drawn from learned experience and some research.
Note: All prices in here were accurate as on Fall 2014. I’m sure fees will rise as the years go on; so assume these are the least you’ll have to pay and plan accordingly.
Michigan requires you to be a resident of the county you want to file in for one year. That’s permanent resident; attending college in Ann Arbor for a year doesn’t count unless you’ve changed your DL to a Washtenaw County address. You also need to be 14 or older; minors under 14 have a different process.
Petition to Change Name
The first step is to file a petition. This is pretty easy: just get a copy of the Petition to Change Name form online and bring it to your county clerk’s office. In Michigan this cost for filing is $150. This was pretty painless for me (sans the $150). I just went to the right floor of the Coleman A Young Municipal Center (CAYMC),stood in line until it was my turn, then filed the paperwork with a thoroughly unenthusiastic office worker.
Criminal Background Check
Anyone 21 or older must have the Michigan State Police perform a criminal background check. This means getting fingerprinted at your local police department; they will forward your fingerprints on to the MSP.
The process was quick and painless, though I had to go back because the first time I went to my local PD the station wasn’t taking fingerprints that day. [Call ahead to check your station’s availability schedule!] I had to bring them a finalized copy of the Petition along with some case labels I was given when I filed. I was charged a fee of $46.50 for this. Some stations may also have a local service fee for this.
There’s a long wait here. It took about a month for me to hear back after submitting my fingerprints. The MSP is probably understaffed and overworked, so just let this play out. You will not hear back from the MSP. Your alert that the process is complete will come in the form of a letter from the court alerting you to the time and place of your hearing. [I’m assuming you pass your background check here; I am not sure how the contact process goes if you fail.] Some counties actually require you to provide them with a SASE at the time of filing in order for them to mail the notice, but my county didn’t request one.
Publication of the Hearing
Michigan next requires that petitioners publish notice of the name change in some public forum so that anyone with legitimate objections to the name change can be given a chance to attend. In Wayne County I was required to publish with a certain publication, Legal News. When I filed, this was $80.25. I had to go back to the CAYMC for this; I couldn’t file it online (boo!). My understanding is that this may be different elsewhere, and that some counties will allow publication in (cheaper) local newspapers. But I’m fairly certain all three Detroit suburban counties use the Legal News.
This must be done at least 14 days before the hearing, and I suggest not waiting until the last minute. After the notice is published, the publication will provide you with a proof of publication form to bring to the hearing (simply bringing a clipping isn’t enough).
If you’ve done everything right, this step is pretty painless. You attend court, wait for your name to get called, stand before a judge, and soon enough (assuming nothing has gone wrong) you will have your name change approved. Depending on the county, you may end up with an additional fee on this day. I was required to first pay a $10 fee for Entry of Court Order before attending my hearing; I had to bring proof of payment to the hearing.
When I went into my hearing, I was very worried that my trans status might be made an issue. However, being trans is not a crime and no judge can legally view it as seeking a name change for “fraudulent purposes.” The questions you face should be pretty procedural — “What is your current legal name?” “What is the name change you seek?” “Are you doing this for any fraudulent purpose?” etc. The judge might ask you something like “Why do you seek a name change,” though, in which case you will have to verbalize your trans status. Mine didn’t ask; I presume she felt it was obvious.
Certified copies in Wayne County cost $11 each. I got five, though I’m beginning to think that was too many as no one seems to want to keep it, but merely copy it and give it back to me. Still, better safe than sorry.
Once you have your court order, yo u have a lot of footwork to do. You must change your name on everything from your driver’s license to your Starbucks Reward card, and you will probably have to present the court order every time. Some institutions also require you to have your new picture ID, meaning you may need to wait a couple weeks before you can change everything. My bank required both a new picture ID and a new Social Security card.
Some changes require fees for new documents, such as your DL and your new birth certificate. Social Security, notably, does not charge any fee.
Even after getting your ID and accounts changed over, I highly recommend keeping your old picture ID on hand, along with a copy of the court order, in some easy-to-reach place. Who knows when someone may need to see it for some account or other.
Okay, so here’s the math on the name change.
$150 [Filing fee for Petition]
+ $46.50 [Fingerprinting]
+ $80.25 [Publication of Notice]
+ $10 [Entry Fee]
+ $55 [5 Certified Copies @ $11 each]
= $341.75 total
I hope this might help others approaching their name change to better know what to expect. Experiences will likely change a little from county to county, but in Michigan this is the process in its broad strokes.
- Michigan Courts — Name Change — Self Help
- Michigan State Police — Name Change Fingerprinting Procedures
- TLDEF Name Change Project [For Wayne, Oakland, & Macomb counties]