On September 1, 2021, changes to the New Jersey name change rules went into effect.  As discussed in a prior blog, securing the confidentiality of all name changes is a huge step.  However, there were several other changes that occurred that deserve attention as well.  

When the publication requirement for name changes was abolished in November 2020, there was a portion of the requirement that remained in the Rules: that the petitioner or plaintiff would need to wait 30 days for their name change to go into effect.  Without the publication requirement, there would be no reason that name changes could not be effective immediately.  The most recent omnibus order fixes this issue by getting rid of the 30 day wait.   

Deleting this wait time from the statute has a very real impact for the transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities.  Those individuals being granted name changes are no longer told that they must wait an arbitrary amount of time to assume their names on their legal documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports. The process for these documents takes some time, and that process can now be started immediately.   

Abolishing this waiting period is another step in the right direction in our statutes to provide access to the court system and to help protect these individuals. The transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming communities continue to be the target of increased violence and bigotry.  One of the issues facing these communities is that their names and gender markers do not match their gender expressions.  This can lead to individuals not having control of being “outed” to the public and therefore heightens the possibility of them being attacked.  Allowing the immediate change of a name and ability to apply for identification and other documents without the waiting period will hopefully help curb these issues.    

Finally, it is important to note one more change made. In the name change rule, 4:72-4, there is a change that seems simple on its surface but demands our attention. In the middle of the paragraph, the change is deleting the language of “his or her” and replacing it with the gender neutral “Plaintiff.”  This is important as it allows for the language to be fully inclusive of everyone.  Not everyone uses the binary pronouns of he/his/him or she/her/hers.   By making this change, the New Jersey Supreme Court took an incredible step to making sure everyone knows the courts are there for their use.  We need to continue to encourage our law makers to push for these types of inclusive changes throughout our legislation and court rules in New Jersey (and beyond).