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Trans Rights and Texas Family Law

You don’t have to do this alone. Our office recognizes the unique challenges faced by transgender Texans, and our goal is to help you navigate these complex legal processes. If you’d like a free 30 minute consultation, you’re welcome to call our office or send a message through our website to schedule a meeting so that we may best determine your needs.

Changing Your Name

One of the most empowering things a person can do is change their name. However, it’s still a legal process, which means you should consult an attorney before beginning the process to ensure all your paperwork is in order. The first step in the name change process is to draft a petition and an order. The petition is a legal document asking the court for your name to be changed, while the order is the legal document signed by the judge actually granting the change. Part of the name change process is disclosing your personal information, your criminal history, financial history, and reason for the name change. You’re required to disclose whether you’ve been convicted of certain offenses and whether creditors are attempting to collect from you to ensure that the name change is not sought to avoid present legal obligations. Additionally, while the reason requirement might seem scary, you don’t need to state anything other than that you’d prefer the name you’ve selected.

Part of the Texas name change process is securing a copy of your fingerprints. This is to run an FBI background check as part of your criminal history disclosure, as well as to verify your identity. There are multiple fingerprint services in Texas, though is an easy, low-stress way to obtain your digital fingerprints at a reasonable price. Be sure to keep a copy of your cards with you.

Once the petition, order, and fingerprints are in order, your attorney will file the documents with the court. Depending on the county of filing, these fees can be well over $250. However, if you cannot afford court costs, our attorneys can help you file a waiver of fees or set up an installment plan with the court. After filing, the court will assign you a case number.

The final part of the process will differ depending on which county you’re in, but no matter where you live, you will need to attend the uncontested docket at your county’s courthouse. Your attorney can help you determine what the specific process will look like for you when the day comes. You’ll want to bring a copy of your petition and fingerprints in case the judge needs to review your paperwork, as well as the order to be signed which you’ll submit to the judge. The order will be submitted along with a request of electronic copy for yourself and your attorney. Once the judge calls your case, they’ll ask you a few more questions under oath to verify that your information is correct. Once the order is signed your name change is granted!

It’s important to note that while the order grants your name change immediately, you’ll need a certified copy of the order to have your name changed on the rest of your legal documents (driver’s license/identification card, social security card, etc.). Your name will not be automatically changed on documents, so it’s up to you to contact the relevant agencies to change your name elsewhere.

Changing Your Gender Marker

The process for changing your gender marker is nearly identical to changing your name. You’ll need to have your attorney draft a petition to change sex and gender identification, which has a similar disclosure requirement as the name change petition. The process for getting this granted is otherwise the same as the name change process. Additionally, you’ll want to organize any and all evidence you have that will support your request. This doesn’t need to be anything highly personal, and can include discussing your name change or any other processes that were part of your transition. In Travis County, for example, a written letter from your physician stating a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (or other relevant diagnosis), describing the treatment you have undergone for your diagnosis, and a recommendation that a gender marker change is in your best interest. Judges can be unpredictable in terms of what they’d like to see before granting such an order, so it’s important to be prepared to tell your story. Friends or significant others are welcome to come to the proceeding with you to show their support!

Like a name change, a court order granting a gender marker change takes effect immediately but doesn’t automatically change your gender marker on your legal documents. You’ll need to use the certified copy of the order to change or amend your passport, identification cards, and so on.

Changing your name and gender marker is a deeply personal process, and it’s more than understandable if you’re concerned about having to disclose your prior name or gender marker. By and large, you’ll only ever need to disclose this information if a background check is requested or you’re involved in further legal proceedings. It’s an unfortunate part of these processes, but rest easy knowing the information will be kept confidential. Further, you may be concerned about your name change being made public due to the nature of court proceedings. While court documents may be requested by most persons, the process is notably cumbersome and difficult for a non-attorney to navigate. If you’re afraid of filing a name or gender marker change due to concerns for your personal safety, please speak with your attorney to see what your options are. All consultations are strictly confidential, and we won’t file any documents or begin any legal proceedings without your approval.

Estate Planning

If you own a car, house, or any other substantial piece of property, it’s critical that you have a will so that your property is distributed per your wishes. Without a will, your property is distributed in accordance with the default intestacy plan, which likely doesn’t reflect your wishes. Wills are small documents that can have major consequences. If you’ve just changed your name and gender marker and want to draft a will, or need a new will to reflect your name and gender marker change, we’re here to help. We customize each will to the needs of the client, and have a more comprehensive post on what you can include in your will here.

Parental Rights

The trickiest part of LGBT law in Texas is parental rights. This is a topic that could consist of its own blog post due to its breadth and complexity. It’s important to note that in Texas, same-sex couples don’t receive the same parental presumptions described under the Texas Family Code. The Family Code presumes a child to belong to both parents if a cis-male husband and cis-female wife give birth to the child during their marriage. There is no such presumption for LGBT couples, and this gets even trickier if one parent has had their gender marker changed to reflect their identity. Second-Parent Adoption is used by many LGBT couples in order to ensure the both of them share equal parental rights with a child. This allows the child to have two legal parents, despite only having biological relation to one parent or being adopted by only one parent. You and your partner must be legally married in order to apply for a Second-Parent Adoption. Additionally, traditional adoption is available to LGBT couples as well. If you’re already married, this can, in some circumstances, prevent the need for a Second-Parent Adoption. These issues can be very complex and difficult, so it’s best to consult with legal professionals before attempting anything on your own.

Before starting any legal proceeding, it’s important to talk to an experienced attorney who understands the unique struggle faced by trans people. Every situation is unique, and due to the extremely personal nature of name changes, gender marker changes, estate planning, and parentage, you need attorneys you can trust. We offer a free 30 minute consultation to determine your needs. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please fill out the contact form on our website or give us a call at (512) 944-3329. Our phones are answered between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. during the week.

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