How to Legally Change Your Name  in Illinois 

Disclaimer

This presentation is meant as general information only and is not intended to provide guidance or legal advice regarding anyone’s specific situation.

 

If you have additional questions or have encountered difficulty please contact any of these resources for help:

Basic Steps for a Name Change in IL

  • Step 1: File the Request for Name Change. 

    • File for fee waiver and publication waiver at this time. 

  • Step 2: Receive court date. 

  • Step 3: Publish your Notice of Court Date (unless waived)

  • Step 4: Get a Certificate of Publication from the newspaper and file it with the court.  

  • Step 5: Go to your court date to ask the court to change your name. 

  • Step 6: Filing Name Change, Gender Marker Change with DMV, SSA, Birth Certificate, Passport, and other important documents. 

Basic Requirements for a Name Change

To apply to change your name in Illinois, you must: 

  • be at least 18 years old

  • have lived in Illinois for at least 6 months

  • submit a petition to the court that is signed by a witness ​

  • publically publish notice of the petition for three consecutive weeks, starting at least six weeks before the hearing (unless waived)  

  • pay $388​ (unless waived) 

 

Those with a felony conviction within the last ten years or are a registered sex offender are not permitted to change their name.
 

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Costs and Fees of a Name Change in IL

For transmasc and non-binary people, there are a variety of fees associated with getting your name changed. Fee waivers are available for some steps, but your overall cost can be up to $600. The major fees you should be aware of are: 

  • Circuit Court Filing Fee: $388. To file your forms with the Circuit Clerk. (Unless waived)
  • Newspaper Publication Fee: $90-$200. To put your notice in the newspaper. (Unless waived)

  • Certified Copy Fee: $10 each. If your name change is granted and you need certified copies of the court order. 
    If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to file for free or at a reduced cost

  • Cost of Updating ID: $5-$20 

  • There may also be fees associated with obtaining updated copies of your Birth Certificate, Passport, or other important documents. 

Applying for Fee Waivers

In some situations, it may be possible to have some of the costs waived for you. For a full fee waiver, your income would need to be less than 125% of the federal poverty line. You'll need to apply for this waiver at the same time that you apply for your name change. Make sure to bring documentation (paystubs, bank statements, public benefits letter, LINK card, etc) to prove your income level. 

The publication fee will can also be waived if you live in Cook County, but not all newspapers honor a court’s fee waiver

Click here for the Application for Waiver of Court Fees.

Step 1: File Your Request for a Name Change with IL Circuit Court

Currently, Illinois requires you to file online for a name change. There is no official way to do this, as they use a variety of privately owned companies to facilitate filing. Some of these providers charge and some do not. 

One of the most popular is Odyssey eFileIL, it's also one of the free ones. You'll need to create an account to file your paperwork with them. 

To file your application you'll need a form of photo I.D. and a copy of your birth certificate. 

If you don't have reliable internet access, or you simply find the online application process daunting, you can go to your local circuit court in person to file your paperwork. This will likely take a long time and require you to be able to take time off work and wait in a long line, but it has the added benefit of getting your court date right away. 

A Note About Your Witness

While the paperwork isn't specific, you should know that this is meant to be a witness to your use of the new name, not to your application. If you are applying in person, this witness cannot be an employee of the circuit court. The witness can be anyone that knows you and does not need to be present at your application. 

Applying for a Publication Waiver

Part of your name change application will usually require you to publish notice of your name change in a newspaper. If you feel this would make you unsafe, it is possible to apply to waive this step. If you want to do this, you will need to apply for this at the same time as you apply for your name change. The official requirements for this waiver are: 

  1. You believe that publishing notice will put you at risk of physical harm or discrimination.

  2. You have or have previously been granted a protective order.
     

However, anecdotal evidence and experience shows that most judges are unlikely to grant this waiver for the average trans person. It will not be enough to point out that this step opens trans people up to discrimination and harassment, you must be able to prove that you have already received harassment and this will make it worse. 

If you apply for this waiver and the judge denies it, it will delay your name change by 2-3 months and require you to obtain a new court date and the publication before you can proceed. ​

Click here for the "Motion to Waive Notice & Publication (Request for Name Change)" form.

Step 2: Recieve Your Court Date

Usually, your court date will be about 8 weeks out. If you need any legal help obtaining a court date, reach out to the Transformative Justice Law Project of IL at namechange@tjlp.com

  • In-person Application: The circuit clerk that helps you file your paperwork should also give you your court date when the application is finished. However, this won't have any of the details such as the time or Zoom room. 

  • Online Application: You should receive an email with your court date, time, zoom room, and the name of the judge. If you haven't heard back about your application in a week, you should email: cntycourtdate@cookcountycourt.com

Step 3: Publishing Notice

One of the more antiquated parts of this process is "publishing notice". Illinois requires you to publish the details of your name change in a public newspaper for several weeks before your court date. This is ostensibly to prevent people from changing their name to avoid debts or other consequences. 

The Notice must appear for 3 weeks and the first publication must be at least 6 weeks before your court date. The newspaper will need the following to publish your notice: 

  • a copy of your filed petition

  • your court date, time, and room number

  • your case number

  • the correct spelling of your new name

 

In Cook County, it is standard practice to publish these notices in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. While this option is more expensive, it's also a publication that is out of the public eye and mostly used by lawers. Other resources for publication include: 

 

If you want to avoid doing this, please see our notes in Step 1, as you'll need to apply at the start of your process. 

Step 4: Get Certificate of Publication

When you purchase the newspaper publication, as them how you will get the Certificate of Publication. The newspaper will usually give you one of the following options: 

  • they'll mail (or email) you the certificate

  • they'll ask you to pick it up in person and give you a date you can do this

  • sometimes they'll send the certificate directly to the circuit court

If they send you the certificate, make sure you file it with the circuit clerk (in the same manner as your original application) before your court date. 

If the newspaper sends the Certificate directly to the Circuit Clerk, make sure it arrives before your court date and ask the newspaper to send you a copy.

Step 5: Attend Your Court Date

Make sure to prepare for your court date in advance and have the following on hand: 

  • Photo I.D.

  • Birth Certificate

  • Stamped copies of: 

    • Request for Name Change, 

    • Publication Notice of Court Date for Request for Name Change (if it applies)

    • Certificate of Publication (if it applies)

    • ​Proposed Order for Name Change

Get to your court date at least 30 minutes early. If in person, make sure to check in with the courtroom staff and ensure you're waiting in the right place. If you have a virtual court date, make sure to access your Zoom room in a quiet and private space. 

You may be placed under oath, and you should always answer the judge's questions carefully. However you shouldn't be worried about trying to prove your "transness", the judge will only want to understand why you want to make this change and how long you've been using this new name. If you're nervous about the idea of going to court, it may help to take notes of important dates in your transition so you'll feel confident and prepared. 

The judge will either grant or deny your request for a name change and write their decision on the court order. If granted, you'll need copies of this order to update things like your driver's license or ban account. 

Step 6: Celebrate

Congratulations!! You've gotten through the red tape and hit a major milestone in your transition! 

Make sure you take some time to appreciate your hard work.