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How To Legally Change Your Name and Gender Marker in Iowa

If you're a resident of Iowa, you can legally change your name by getting married, divorced, or petitioning a court for a name change decree (court order). The process is pretty straightforward.

This article covers how to legally change your name in Iowa, whether due to marriage, divorce, or some other reason. It also addresses how to file the appropriate paperwork with other government agencies. Finally, it discusses changing your gender marker on essential legal documents.

Legally Change Your Name in Iowa

Marriage, divorce, and court petitions are the three ways to change your name in Iowa. While the processes differ, each results in an official document proving your name has been changed. This is important—official documentation will be required to update your Social Security card, driver's license, and other forms of identification.

Marriage

Most name changes occur through marriage. While no law requires it, and there are differing views on its merits, many people still change their names when getting married. Iowa makes doing so relatively hassle-free.

Iowa law permits spouses to change their names when getting a marriage certificate. This is true for either spouse. The change is automatic once a marriage certificate is issued. Simply indicate your desired name when applying for a marriage certificate. Once issued, your valid marriage certificate can serve as proof of your name change.

Divorce

It's also common to change your name when getting divorced. While the divorce process can be long and emotionally painful, changing your name can be accomplished at this time with little extra hassle.

Iowa allows a divorcing party to request a name change as part of securing a divorce decree or an annulment. But there are limits. You can only change your name back to what it was immediately before the marriage or back to your birth (maiden) name. Changing your name in any other way requires going through the petition process described below.

Petition for a Change of Name

All states, including Iowa, allow residents to change their names by petitioning a court. Reasons for filing a name change petition vary widely. Maybe you've never liked your name and want to change it. Or maybe you're going through a gender transition process and want your name to reflect your gender identity. Regardless of the reason, the process is the same.

Iowa allows any adult to apply for a name change with their local district court. Verified petitions must contain the following:

  • Personal information, including current name and physical characteristics;
  • Current and previous residences;
  • Reason for seeking a name change;
  • Description of all real property you own in Iowa; and
  • Proposed name

You'll need to submit a certified copy of a birth certificate with the petition. Expect to pay a fee, as well. There is a 30-day waiting period after you file before the court can grant your petition. If you're married, you must provide legal notice of the name change to your spouse.

If you wish to change your minor child's name, Iowa law requires both parents' consent if the child is under 14. If one parent refuses to consent, the court will hold a hearing to determine what's in the child's best interest. If the child is older than 14, they also must provide written consent to the name change.

If the court grants your name change application, you'll receive a certified copy of the court's decree reflecting your new name. This is the official proof of your name change. Keep it for your records. Get copies to submit to other agencies to complete the name change process with them.

File the Appropriate Paperwork With Government Agencies

Your marriage license, divorce decree, or court decree will legally change your name. But that's not the end of the process. The next step is to visit your local Social Security office to update your information and receive a new Social Security card.

You'll need to fill out an application for a new Social Security card, along with identity documents and proof of your name change. The good news is that you can change your gender marker simultaneously. All you need to do is select the gender marker you'd like your Social Security records to reflect.

Next, you'll want to schedule an appointment at your local Iowa driver's license site to change your driver's license or identification card. You need to do this in person. Use your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or name change decree to complete the name change process for your driver's license.

Changing Your Gender Marker

Changing your gender marker on your legal documents in Iowa is slightly more complicated. To obtain an updated gender marker on your driver's license, for instance, you'll need to submit an updated birth certificate.

To update your gender marker on your Iowa birth certificate, you need to provide the following:

  • A notarized affidavit on letterhead from your physician. This must include a statement that your sex designation has been changed by surgery or other treatment. Include the doctor's full name, address, medical license number, and the state of their medical license
  • Any applicable fees
  • A certified copy of a court-ordered name change (if appropriate)
  • An Amendment to Iowa Certificate of Birth form
  • A copy of a current government-issued picture ID

Submit all the above to the Bureau of Health Statistics, a division of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), to obtain an amended birth certificate. You can then present a certified copy of your birth certificate when seeking to change the gender marker on your driver's license.

Get the Legal Help You Need in Iowa

Changing your name and gender marker is generally straightforward. But if you're finding the legal name change process confusing or overwhelming, it can be helpful to reach out to an experienced local attorney for legal advice. An attorney can be especially helpful in navigating the gender marker change process.

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