If you live in Sonoma County and identify as transgender/nonbinary/genderqueer/etc. and desire to change name and gender in Sonoma County, this guide will show you how. I will be updating this guide on how to change name and gender in Sonoma County as the process changes.
A great source to read, that lays it out nicely and is regularly kept up to date, is Transgender Law Center’s ID Please document. They cover more in depth what to do for governmental records after you have a court order here.
If you have any suggestions or updates please email me on the contact page.
Just a bit of a disclaimer, this is a long and irritating process (my words) that may have fees involved, so be prepared for there to be delays and hiccups along the way. The process is certainly getting easier, but by no means is it efficient or fair yet. Please keep reality in mind before proceeding.
Another disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer, please do not use this as legal advice.
How to Change Name and Gender in Sonoma County
Read all steps before going through and doing any of this so you don’t get irritated that somebody didn’t tell you (like I did).
Step 1 Get the forms
Go to the probate window at the “Family Law” courthouse next to Empire College.
3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403
Office Hours: 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM Mon-Fri
Court Hours: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Mon-Fri
(707) 521-6500 Main Information
There is security at the entrance to this building, do not bring knives, weapons, nail files that are pointy, long chains, unmarked pill containers, drugs, etc. Be smart. Your bag and belt will be run through a metal detector. Do not complain, this is normal.
Down the hall straight ahead and to the left there is a door called “Probate”, go in there and go to the “Probate” window. Ask for a name/gender change packet (or download it here). Download all the forms on the page and fill them out. If you don’t know what the info is, fill it out to the best of your ability. Do NOT leave any space unfilled, otherwise they will return it. Also, ask for a “Court Fee Waiver” in case you are experiencing financial difficulty and can’t pay the $500 ish dollars it’s going to cost to have the name/gender change done.
They will also inform you to make 2 copies of the forms and bring 2 self-addressed stamped envelopes.
Step 2 Doctor’s Note
Once you fill out all the forms, you will see a space for a doctor’s note. If you are with Kaiser, you can email your doctor and they can mail it to you or make it available for pickup. This needs to be a medical doctor. So please establish a relationship with a medical doctor. This step is non-negotiable.
Step 3 Turn it all in and wait
Once you’ve submitted the forms back to probate, they will at that moment give you a court date in that same building you’re in. It’s usually a month out. This is normal. There is NO NEED for a newspaper advertisement, a law in 2014 changed that (if someone knows, please send me a link).
You will be mailed a letter of approval.
They will inform you that you can see the tentative rulings at noon the day before the court date, so you don’t even need to go in. Once that ruling is complete, they will mail you a court ruling that you are now legally recognized as the name/gender that you filed for. This document will have an elevated seal of approval on there. KEEP THIS DOCUMENT, do not let any other office I will mention in the upcoming office take this from you. Duplicate it, but bring it with you in upcoming steps.
Step 4 DMV
Download this form from the DMV and get your doctor to sign this note too. I know it’s redundant, but it’s what they want. Take that form and your court order with the elevated seal to the DMV (no appointment necessary) submit the DMV form, show them the court order (YOU KEEP THIS) give them a photocopy or let them photocopy it.
They’ll then give you a slip stating your “temporary license”. They might take your old driver’s license, I’m not sure what the official stance is, this is just what they did to me.
Go take a picture.
2 weeks later you’ll get a new license in the mail.
Step 5 Birth Certificate
Go to the County Clerk’s office:
Address: 2300 County Center Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Hours: Open today · 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Ask for the name/gender change packet. This is only relevant if you were born in Sonoma County. If out of the country or out of state your task is a lot more complicated. Good luck. (I was born in Thailand).
Step 6 Passport
Update coming soon (email me if you know the process or if you’ve waited too long for my update).
Step 7 Credit Cards/Bank Accounts/Health Insurance/etc.
Congratulations! You’re now legal, but now you get to take that legal court order and your new driver’s license over to your bank, you get to call Covered CA to update your info (shouldn’t need to send anything), mail/fax the court order to credit cards, and chase down any last remnants of your name/gender being incorrect.