Legal Name and Gender Marker Changes

Legal Name Changes in Michigan

The following steps were developed to assist legal adults seeking a legal name change in Michigan, but are not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice or official government guides. Please verify procedures and requirements with your local county clerk’s office. If you have suggested updates or revisions please email us at lbgtrc@msu.edu.

CONDITIONS

  1. Must be a resident of a county in Michigan for at least 1 year.
    • This will be the county listed on your current ID or license.
    • You must file in this county, even if you do not currently reside there.
  2. The petition must not be made with fraudulent intent.
    • The reason for the name change must be explained on the form.

ESTIMATED COST BREAKDOWN (ALL FEES MAY VARY SLIGHTLY BY COUNTY):

  • ~$175 Initial filing fee
  • ~$45 Criminal background check and fingerprinting (if over the age of 21)
  • ~$25-50 Individual county processing fees (not always applicable)
  • ~$60 Newspaper publishing fee - this cost can vary significantly by newspaper 
  • ~$30 Fee for filing the order and two certified copies of the petition following the hearing
    • Pro-Tips:
      • Get at least two certified copies. Some agencies require an original copy of the order to keep or borrow for up to 6 weeks. If you have two copies, you always have one for safe keeping.
      • You can always get more certified copies in the future at the county clerk’s office for a fee.
  • ~$10 New State ID or Driver’s License

ESTIMATED TIMELINE

  • ~ 1 week: Obtaining and mailing the PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 51 form, standard USPS mail.
  • ~ 3-5 weeks: Obtaining a criminal background check.
    • Only for those age 22 years and older.
  • ~ 2-8 weeks: Receive hearing information from the clerk, hearing scheduled.
  • ~ 1-3 days: Publishing the notice of hearing in the newspaper (do this asap after you receive your hearing date)
  • ~ 3-4 weeks: Receive new ID in the mail after visiting the Secretary of State.

Total time from filing date to hearing date varies. Average will be 4-8 weeks.

*The Notice of Hearing must be published no less than 15 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. See Step 6 for more details.

STEP 1

Download and print the form: PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 51.

  1. Check your county clerk’s website or go to www.michiganlegalhelp.org to download and print the form.
    • Michigan Legal Help offers a walkthrough that fills out the form for you based on your answers to questions.
  2. Make sure you fill out all portions.
    • If you also have a Michigan Birth Certificate, you can complete that change at the same time via line 9 on the PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 51 form. If you do not have a Michigan Birth Certificate, you will have to contact the issuing state after your order is approved by a judge to change the name on your Birth Certificate.
  3. Be sure to put your permanent address (as listed on your current ID) on the form. You can provide the clerk with a temporary mailing address if needed (you will provide them with a self addressed envelope in Step 2), but the form can’t be processed unless the current permanent address is listed.

STEP 2

  1. Find your county clerk’s office or mailing address.
    • Each county can have a different filing and processing fee, but it is usually around $175.
      • If you cannot afford this fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver.
        • Doing this will add more time to the process because you will need to wait for a decision on the fee waiver before you can file your PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 51.
        • These are the steps to apply for a fee waiver
  2. If you need to mail a payment, call the office and verify the cost and information. Many offices will not accept personal checks but will accept a money order.
    • You can get a money order from your bank, credit union, and Western Union (available in many stores such as Meijer, Family Fare, and Walgreens). Search online or call to find the one closest and most convenient for you. Issuers often charge a small fee to prepare the money order.
    • Pro-Tips:
      • When mailing your petition, pay for delivery confirmation. This will give you a tracking number for your mailed documents, so you will know when they have been delivered. You can do this at the post office when you mail the document or purchase one online and print the label to tape on your letter.
        • This costs about 5 dollars, but it was worth it when my letter got misdirected.
      • Some websites are unclear on this point, but do not send the petition to the court itself.
        • Generally, you will send the petition to the County Clerk’s office.
      • Make 1-2 copies of the petition before submitting the original.

STEP 3

Mail (as described above) or drop off your petition at the circuit court in the county of residence, the proper amount of payment, a copy of your Birth Certificate (in-state or out-of-state accepted) and current ID (these do not need to be certified copies), and a self-addressed envelope with a stamp.

  • They will use the envelope you provide to send you information. Be sure the address you use is current and valid. You MUST send them this envelope.

STEP 4

  1. Criminal Background Check (if you are less than 22 years old, skip this step)
    • All persons 22 years and older require a criminal background check before a hearing can be scheduled.
    • You will need to be fingerprinted at a local police agency (cost varies).
      • Search online or ask the clerk to find your closest fingerprinting agency.
    • Mail your fingerprints, a copy of the petition you sent to the clerk, and a form of payment to the state police.
    • The state police will report its findings to the county in which you filed the petition.
      • This usually takes 3-5 weeks.
      • If you have no pending charges or criminal record, the state police will destroy your fingerprints after they report to the court.

STEP 5

Schedule the Hearing

  • The county clerk will use the self-addressed stamped envelope you provided to send you information (after you pass the criminal record check, if applicable) regarding your hearing.
    • Some courts schedule the hearing date for you, while others require you to call and schedule yourself. If you are unsure of your date, ask the clerk’s office or search your county’s court docket.
  • Pro-Tip:
    • If you are under 22 years old and do not receive your hearing information within 2 weeks, call the county clerk. Make sure they understand that they do not have to wait for background check results because your age waives that requirement.

STEP 6

  1. Publishing the Notice of Hearing
    • All name change hearings must be published in a local newspaper no more than 8 weeks and no less than 15 days prior to the hearing.
      • “Local” refers to the county in which you filed the petition.
        • The clerk should be able to provide a list of acceptable papers.
      • Pro-Tip:
        • This was confusing. The notice only needs to be published for one day, as long as it is at least 15 days before the hearing.
        • Usually, the newspaper will fill out a proof of publication form - called an Affidavit of Publication -  and send it to you or the court, but it is your responsibility to make sure the court receives proof of publication BEFORE the day of your hearing. Some courts require you to check with them three days before your hearing to make sure they got the publication information. 
    • Each local newspaper will have a different publishing fee.
    • If there is a reason you do not feel safe publishing the notice, you can ask the court to keep the proceedings confidential; however, the judge will only do this if publishing will put you in physical danger.  This request must be made early on in the process for review. Many courts will cancel your hearing date if your proof of publication is not received by the due date.
    • Some courts will file for publication for you with Legal News, while other courts require you to file for yourself. 

STEP 7

  1. Attend the Hearing
    • Arrive on the day of your hearing with the following:
      • A copy of the petition you submitted
      • A current ID and a form of payment to obtain certified copies (check with the court for accepted forms of payments, some may accept credit card, check, or money order)
      • Birth Certificate and proof of current residence. Proof of residence is not always required but may be requested. This can include drivers license or other ID and may include items from column 4 of this Secretary of State resource under “Proof of Michigan Residency”https://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Applying_for_lic_or_ID_SOS_428_222146_7.pdf
      • Print and bring with you the ORDER FOLLOWING HEARING ON PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 52
        1. This document is included in the toolkit found at www.michiganlegalhelp.org
        2. You NEED to bring this document to the hearing because this is what the judge signs.
    • The judge will ask you questions such as:
      • Do you have a criminal record?
      • Are you making this request with fraudulent intent?
      • Why do you want to change your name? 
          1. At this point the judge will also give anyone who objects to your name change a change to talk about their reason for objecting. 
      • Do you have any debt?
        1. If you have student loans, you must update the creditor as soon as you obtain a new Social Security Card.
    • Pro-Tips
      • This is the scariest part. Be polite and sure when answering questions.
      • Listen carefully for any instructions the judge or bailiff gives you. If you need to, bring a pen and paper to write down important details.
      • If you need an accommodation to attend your hearing, contact the court clerk before the day of your hearing.

STEP 8

File the Order

  1. The court will do this after the judge approves your name change.
    • Listen to the directions given by the judge, the location of this step varies.
    • This can usually be done the same day of your hearing.
  2. The court will certify the ORDER FOLLOWING HEARING ON PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 52 and will charge for each certified copy and a filing fee, costing ~$10.

STEP 9

  1. Changing your State ID or Driver’s License
    • You must obtain a new Social Security Card before you can change your State ID. This is free. You will need to go to the Social Security (SS) Office. Check https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp to find the one nearest to you.
      1. The SS office will require:
        • A certified copy of the ORDER FOLLOWING HEARING ON PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 52.
        • Your current Social Security Card.
        • Your current State ID or Driver’s License.
        • Your Birth Certificate (not required but very helpful).
        • An application form. 
      2. Pro-Tip:
        • Once you file for a new Social Security Card, you can proceed to get your new State ID or Driver’s License after 24-48 hours. You do not have to wait for the new card to come in the mail. Ask the employee at the SS office for a more exact waiting time.
        • If they don’t give it to you, ask for a signed receipt that shows you have applied for a new Social Security Card.
    • To update your State ID or Driver’s License at the Secretary of State, you will need:
      1. Your current State ID or Driver’s License
      2. A certified copy of the ORDER FOLLOWING HEARING ON PETITION TO CHANGE NAME PC 52
      3. A form of payment
      4. Proof of state residency
      5. Birth Certificate or U.S. Passport
        • This is a recent update used to verify U.S. Citizenship used for some applications. You may or may not be asked for these documents.
      6. It is also helpful to bring the processing receipt you will get from the Social Security Office.

STEP 10

  1. Update your Name
    • Visit www.dmv.org/articles/checklist-where-to-change-your-name/ to view a list of places that may have your name.
      1. This article is targeted for those who have recently married, but the list of agencies will not vary much.
    • Special considerations for students:
      1. University Registrar
      2. Student Employee Records
      3. Student Loan Agency
      4. High School or Transfer Transcripts
      5. Student ID, Online materials, Email
      6. FAFSA/Renewable Scholarships
        • Fill out the next FAFSA with the name attached to your Social Security Number, if you have completed Step 9(a) this will be your new legal name.
        • Submit your FAFSA early, you will need time to provide them with extra documentation of the name change if asked.
      7. Contact any scholarship agency that may be sending checks on your behalf to the University. 

 

Legal Gender Marker Changes

On a Driver’s License or State ID Card


On a Michigan Birth Certificate 

  • Requests for changes to MI birth certificates can be made by
    • Mailing the paperwork and payment to
    • Vital Records Changes
    • P.O. Box 30721
    • Lansing, MI 48909
    • Submitting the paperwork and payment in person at the Vital Records Office 
    • 333 S Grand Avenue 
    • 1st floor
    • Lansing, MI 48933
  • Questions regarding changes to birth certificates can be answered by the Changes Unit by calling 517-335-8660 or emailing VRCustomerService@michigan.gov 
  • To change the gender marker on your birth certificate in Michigan you must have undergone gender-affirmation surgery
    • Michigan only has M and F options on birth certificates 
  • Documentation required:
    • An application to change a Michigan birth record
      • Under “type of change or correction requested” select the third option: “correct birth record information for a person over the age of 6 (six)”
      • Under “information needed to locate birth record to be changed,” for “gender,” select the sex assigned-at-birth
    • A medical affidavit form signed by a physician certifying that you have undergone an “appropriate surgical procedures completed for gender transition to the new gender”
      • This form must also be notarized
    • Photo ID or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a passport 
  • The cost for changing a Michigan birth certificate is $50 and includes one copy of the record with the changes made; payment must be in the form of check or money order
    • Additional copies are $16/ea at the time of the change request 
      • Copies of vital records may be obtained after the fact for the following fees:
        • Via USPS for $34
          • This takes 4-5 weeks 
        • Online via vitalchek.com for $57.50 
          • This is considered a “rush” order with a processing time of 2 weeks
            • An additional cost of $19.75, for a total of $77.25, will guarantee overnight delivery with the record being received in 1-3 business days
        • In person, by appointment only, for $34
          • To schedule an appointment call 517-335-8666, option 3
          • Payment must be made by debit or credit card at the time of scheduling 
  • If you wish to change your first and/or middle name on your birth certificate at the time of surgery, the doctor completing the medical affidavit form can indicate your new name on the form and you will not need to go through the court order process
    • This can only be done in conjunction with the gender-affirmation surgery, and cannot be added to the form after the fact 

On a U.S. Passport 

  • To change the gender marker on your passport you must have undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for transition” as determined by a physician
    • This is intentionally vague, however surgical and/or hormonal transition is not required 
    • “Clinical treatment methods are outlined in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care, and treatment can include psychotherapy, changes in gender expression and role, hormone therapy, or surgery, or any combination thereof”
      • This means that if you have socially transitioned and have been working with a therapist or other mental health professional, their records of psychotherapy can be reviewed and certified by an M.D.
  • Applications for a gender marker change on passports must be made in person at a passport acceptance facility, sometimes located inside of USPS offices
  • There are two types of passport you can apply for:
    • A full-validity passport, valid for 10 years (if over the age of 16)
    • A limited-validity passport, valid for 2 years
      • This is for people who “are in the process of getting appropriate clinical treatment for transition” however this is only recommended for individuals who are at the very beginning of their transition and who’s physicians will not certify that they have already have received “appropriate clinical treatment”

Required documentation:

  1. A form DS-11 
    1. If applying for a full-validity passport to replace a limited-validity one within 2 years of the issuing of the limited-validity passport, a form DS-5504 is used instead
  2. A medical certification, signed by an M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), that states you have received the appropriate medical care to transition 
    1. Although a mental healthcare professional cannot sign the medical certification, the M.D. who fills out the form can either directly provided care or reviewed and evaluated your medical history
    2. Your physician should follow the given template and not include any additional information 
      1. It should appear on the physician’s office letterhead and include the license and certificate number
  3. A recent passport photo that resembles your current appearance 
  4. Proof of citizenship
    1. A document such as a U.S. passport, birth certificate, or certificate of citizenship that you will show, but remain in possession of
      1. This document must be an original or certified copy
    2. An additional photocopy of proof of U.S. citizenship that they will keep
  5. Photo ID that resembles your current appearance 
    1. A document such as a state drivers license or ID, government or military employee ID, an Enhanced Tribal Card, or U.S. passport that you will show, but remain in possession of 
      1. This document must be an original or certified copy
      2. If using an out of state ID, a second form of ID is required
    2. An additional photocopy of proof of identity
  6. Proof of legal name change, if also updating the name that appears on your passport
  7. Payment totalling $145 for a passport book
    1. There is no fee if applying for a full-validity passport with a limited-validity one if the application is within 2 years of the limited-validity passport being issued