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A Guide to Gender Affirming Name Changes in Nebraska: A Step-by-Step Process

This article was written by Cassandra Kostal, Law Clerk at Legal Aid of Nebraska.

In Nebraska, adults can legally change their name at any time. The process takes several weeks and requires multiple steps, so we created this guide to help you navigate the name change process. You can complete these steps on your own, or you can seek legal assistance from an attorney at Legal Aid.

The following name change instructions and forms can also be found on the Nebraska Supreme Court website. This name change process is not intended for name changes due to marriage, which has a separate process. Information about changing your name after getting married can be found here.

 

STEP 1: Rules for Name Changes

You can change your first, middle, and/or last names, but you must have a proper reason for changing your name. This just means you cannot change your name to avoid being charged with a crime, to avoid a crime or other legal action. The name change must take place in the District Court of the county where you live. You must live in that county for at least one (1) year before you can file the Petition for Name Change.

An adult can file the petition for themselves. In Nebraska, an “adult” is a person who is either (1) at least 19 years old, (2) a minor who has been emancipated by court order, or (3) a married person. Anyone who is not legally an adult must have a parent or guardian file the petition for them. A minor’s name change process is different; you can learn more about that here.

 

STEP 2: Financial Preparation

The court will charge a fee to file the petition for a name change. There will also be a fee for placing the legal notice in a publication (Step 5) and for updating documents (Step 9). Before beginning this process, research how much these fees will be and have the money available.

 

STEP 3: Filing the Petition

To begin, complete two forms: (1) Petition for Name Change and (2) Confidential Party Information – Adult Name Change. The forms can be filled out electronically or can be printed and filled out by hand. Refer to the Instructions for Completing the Petition and Instructions for Completing the Confidential Party Information – Adult Name Change for assistance.

The completed forms and filing fee must be taken to the clerk of the district court in the county where you live. The clerk’s office will be located inside the courthouse. If you want to request a waiver for the legal notice publication requirement, an additional form will need to be filed at the same time as the petition (see Step 5). When the petition is filed, the court will assign a case number. This case number must be listed on all documents filed with the court.

 

STEP 4: Setting a Hearing Date

After the petition is filed, you will need to schedule a hearing date. Ask the clerk for the phone number of the court personnel you need to contact for scheduling. The hearing should be scheduled at least six weeks from the current date to allow enough time to complete the remaining steps.

 

STEP 5: Legal Notice by Publication

After the hearing date is scheduled, fill out the Legal Notice form. Refer to the Instructions for Completing the Legal Notice for assistance. Once this form is complete, contact a newspaper in your county to arrange the publication of this Legal Notice. The notice must be published in a newspaper once per week for four (4) weeks in a row. All four publications must occur before the hearing date or the judge will not approve the name change. You can search here for a newspaper in your county. A smaller newspaper will likely have a less expensive publication fee and a smaller circulation.

You will need to ask the newspaper to provide the court with proof that the legal notice was published properly. Once the publication process is finished, the newspaper will need to file an affidavit with the court to verify your notice was published according to state law.

In some cases, you can ask the court to waive the publication requirement. A waiver may be given if you can show the court that having your personal information published in a newspaper will cause a serious safety issue for you. To request a waiver, complete the Petitioner’s Showing and Request for Waiver of Publication form. This form needs to be filed at the same time as the Petition for Name Change (Step 3). You will also need to give the clerk any documents that support your request for a waiver.  Most people will not be eligible to waive the publication requirement.

The court will contact you once a judge decides whether or not to grant the waiver. You will be notified either by written letter or via email. If the judge agrees to waive the publication requirement, you can skip the publication process and proceed directly to the hearing. If the judge does not waive the publication requirement, you will need to complete the publication process listed above.

 

STEP 6: Mailing the Published Notice

For a child going through the name change process, a copy of the notice published in the newspaper must be mailed to anyone with a legal interest in the name change. For a child, a “legally interested” person would be parents, guardians, or anyone who is legally responsible for the child. If you are a legal adult under Nebraska law, it is unlikely that anyone will have a legal interest in your name change process. Therefore, most adults can skip this step entirely. However, if you feel your circumstances are different, you may choose to complete this step.

The copies of the notice must be mailed within five (5) days after the first publication appears in the newspaper. Within 10 days after mailing the notices, an Affidavit of Mailing Published Notice form must be completed to inform the court that the copies were mailed. Refer to the Instructions for Completing the Affidavit of Mailing Published Notice for assistance. This form must be notarized and filed with the court before the hearing date.

 

STEP 7: Preparing for the Hearing

Before the hearing date, you must complete the Decree of Name Change form. Refer to the Instructions for Completing the Decree of Name Change for assistance. You should bring two (2) copies of the Decree to the hearing. The judge will keep an original copy with their signature for the court records and will give you a copy for your own records.

Before the hearing you should contact the district court clerk to ensure that the newspaper that published your Legal Notice has filed an affidavit with the court. The affidavit will confirm that the notice was published once per week for four weeks as required by state law.

 

STEP 8: The Hearing

Be sure to attend the hearing date that you scheduled with the court. You must be present at the hearing and testify under oath about the Petition for Name Change that you filed at the start of this process. Arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled time so you can find the courtroom and be present when the judge calls your case.

The hearing should only take a few minutes once your case is called. You may bring people with you to provide support during the hearing. There will be benches at the back of the courtroom where spectators can sit. Other people may be in the courtroom for hearings happening before or after yours. They will likely be concerned with their own matters and are not paying attention to you, so try not to be nervous about other people being present.

When your case is called, tell the judge that you are ready to proceed and would like to testify (speak in front of the court). You will be asked to come to the front of the courtroom and the judge will give you an oath to tell the truth. When speaking to the judge, remember to address them as “Your Honor.”

You must testify to the following:

  1. Your current name.
  2. You have lived in the county where the petition was filed (the county where the court is located) for at least one year before you filed the petition.
  3. You wish to change your name from [current name] to [new name].
  4. Your reason why you want to change your name.

The reason for changing your name does not need to be complicated. You can say: “My current name does not match my identity. I have been using [new name] for a couple of years now and want to make it my legal name.” Whatever your reason, the judge wants you to be honest.

You will then ask the judge to take judicial notice of the Affidavit of Publication. This means you are asking the judge to look at the affidavit the newspaper sent to the court to prove that it properly published the legal notice of your name change. When you are finished, say, “I have nothing further, your Honor.” You may choose to bring a copy of these hearing instructions with you to court. Most name change hearings will take less than 10 minutes.

If the process has been completed correctly, the judge will grant your request for a name change and sign the Decree of Name Change you brought. You can get a certified copy of the Decree from the court clerk after the hearing.

 

STEP 9: Updating Your Documents

A separate certified copy of your Decree of Name Change will be needed for each document you are updating. Each copy you request from the clerk’s office will cost about $3. Once you have copies of your Decree, you must update important documents with your new legal name, such as your driver’s license, birth certificate, social security card, and passport. You should also notify your bank, school, employer and any other organizations you receive documents from about your name change. There may be a time limit for updating these documents after your name changes, so complete the updates as soon as possible.

Updating your name on your social security card does not require a fee, but there will be a fee of approximately $30 for updating your driver’s license and birth certificate. There will also be a fee if you need to update your passport. There may be additional fees if you must change your gender on your driver’s license, social security record, and passport.

 

Other Resources

Legal Aid of Nebraska periodically partners with area attorneys or other organizations to host free Name Change Clinics where attorneys are available to help you complete the necessary forms. Information about upcoming clinics and how to register to reserve a spot can be found here. Individuals who attend a clinic may be eligible for some of the required fees paid by grants.

If you do not reside in a county with an upcoming clinic but are still looking for help with the name change process, call the Legal Aid of Nebraska AccessLine or visit one of our Access to Justice Walk-In Centers. Legal Aid of Nebraska is here to help. Please reach out to one of our offices if you have any questions.

 

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