NJ removes safety and financial barriers for trans folks seeking legal name changes

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transgender pride flag
transgender pride flag

TLDEF and GSE worked with the state court to make the rule change 

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has amended Rule 4:72 entitled “Name Change Applications—Elimination of the Requirement of Newspaper Publication,” to abolish the requirements that people who obtain court-ordered name changes publish their former and new names in a newspaper. The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), along with Garden State Equality and the law firm Lowenstein Sandler submitted comments to the court in October 2020, supporting the then-proposed amendments to the court’s rules.

New Jersey residents seeking to legally change their name were required to publish separately both the notice of application and the court order granting the name change. This process posed a significant financial barrier and threatened the safety and privacy of transgender people say advocates of the new rule change. They say that many transgender people have a financial hardship and are unable to legally change their identity documents as a result. They frequently encounter incidents of discrimination when a legal name on identification does not reflect their lived gender identity.

With these changes, New Jersey now becomes the 18th U.S. jurisdiction to remove name change publication requirements. TLDEF’s Name Change Project works with law firms across the country, in this case Lowenstein Sandler, to provide pro bono legal assistance for transgender and non-binary people seeking legal name changes.

For TLDEF’s Name Change Project participants, many of whom are people of color and often live on less than $1,000 each month, the court and publication fees are often insurmountable barriers to accessing affirming identity documents.

“We applaud the New Jersey Supreme Court for recognizing the safety and privacy considerations that are often barriers for transgender name change petitioners,” said TLDEF’s Name Change Project Counsel Charlie Arrowood. “Removing the publication requirement for name changes not only makes the process more accessible and affordable to those who need it, but also removes the safety burden of publicizing private and personal information. At a time when violence against our community continues to break records, granting legal name changes and protecting private medical information will save lives.”