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How to Change Your Name and Gender Marker in Illinois

If you want to change your legal name or gender marker in Illinois, you're in luck. The process is straightforward. That said, changing your name in Illinois differs depending on your situation.

This article discusses the correct legal process for changing your name, whether you're changing your name due to marriage, divorce, or some other reason. It also addresses how to file the appropriate paperwork with other government agencies. Finally, you'll learn how to change your gender marker on crucial Illinois identification documents.

Identify and Follow the Correct Illinois Legal Name Change Process

There are many ways to legally change your name, depending on the reason for your name change. For most people, a name change comes with marriage or divorce. Others may wish to change their name for a different reason, such as affirming their gender identity. We outline the process for each type of name change below.

Marriage

Most name changes happen due to marriage. While it's still common for women to take their husband's surname (last name), there's a lot of diversity in this area, and the law recognizes that. Changes in same-sex marriage, a rise in cohabitation, and other social changes affect what people do with their names when getting married. Illinois law reflects all these realities.

When you get married in Illinois, either spouse can change their name while filling out a marriage certificate. The state requires no petition or further legal processes. Your valid marriage certificate — issued by the state, signed by the official performing the ceremony, and returned to the county clerk's office — serves as the legal proof of your name change.

Divorce

It's also common to change your name after getting divorced. While the divorce process is often long, trying, and emotional, you can work a name change into the existing process.

If you're a divorcing spouse, you can ask the court handling your divorce to change your name back to a former or "maiden" name during the proceedings. The court will generally grant this request and include the name change in the resulting divorce decree.

Petition for a Change of Name for an Adult

You'll have to ask a court for a name change outside of marriage or divorce. This is the route you'll take if, for instance, you're changing your name as part of a gender transition.

Illinois law permits residents to petition for a name change with the local circuit court in their county. The request for name change requires you to submit certain information to the court, including your:

  • Current name
  • Sought (proposed) name
  • Residence information
  • Length of time spent as a resident in the state (at least six months)
  • State or county of birth
  • Signature

You'll need someone to file an affidavit verifying the petition's information. The state might need more information. Ultimately, the court must approve, and a judge may request more information or ask you questions at the hearing.

Illinois also requires you to publish a notice in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. This helps ensure people know about a proposed name change.

Once the court approves your name change, the court order becomes proof of your legal name change. Get certified copies of the order to submit to other government agencies as proof of your name change.

Prohibited Name Changes

You can't change your name in Illinois for illegal or fraudulent reasons. You go to court, publish a notice in a newspaper, and formalize the name change process to inform people about your name change. This prevents people from trying to skirt child support obligations, avoid debt, or generally evade the law.

Petition for Change of Name for Minors

There are some extra requirements for changing a child's name. Illinois permits entire families to change their names all at once — the petitioner, their spouse, and children. For minors who haven't reached the state's age of majority, the court will consider whether the name change is in the child's best interests.

A parent or guardian can also file individual petitions to change a child's name. Here, too, the court will consider the child's best interests, including the child's wishes, the parents' wishes, and other factors. Contact your local circuit clerk with questions.

File the Appropriate Paperwork With Government Agencies

Once your name is legally changed, there's more paperwork to do. You'll want your driver's license to display your new name. For that, you'll need to contact the Illinois Secretary of State's Office to locate a nearby Secretary of State facility. You'll need to turn in your old license or state ID card and provide acceptable identification.

You'll also need to change your Social Security record as well at your local Social Security office. To do this, you'll fill out an application for a new Social Security card (known as form SS-5) and submit name change documentation.

The good news is that if you're also changing your gender marker, you can do that at the same time by simply indicating the correct gender on your application. The Social Security Administration will then update your records.

Changing Your Gender Marker

If you're changing your gender marker also, you'll have a few more steps to take. Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward.

To change your gender on your Illinois driver's license, complete a gender designation change form and submit it to your local Secretary of State facility. If you're making this change at a time other than during your normal license renewal period, you'll also need to pay a small fee. You can select "M," "F," or "X" as your gender on your Illinois driver's license.

The process for changing your gender marker on your Illinois birth certificate is similarly straightforward. You'll need to complete an affidavit and certificate of correction request form. You then submit that document to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Vital Records. As with your driver's license, you can say "M," "F," or "X" as your gender on your birth certificate. Be prepared to pay a small filing fee, too.

Get the Legal Help You Need in Illinois

The Illinois name change process is generally easy. The same is true for changing your gender marker in Illinois. Perhaps your situation is more complicated, though, or you're finding the process confusing. In that case, reach out to an experienced local attorney for legal advice.

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