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New Law Changes How Name-Change Fees Impact Justice

Written by Rebecca Schumacher, ELAP intern

It’s surprisingly expensive to change your name. Although costs vary by county, filing fees and administrative costs often total several hundred dollars. These costs can create a barrier to justice for survivors of domestic violence and LGBTQ2S+ individuals who are disproportionately more likely to be low-income.

In March this year, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1961 to address this barrier and make the name-change process more accessible for low-income residents of Washington. The new law took effect on July 1 and amends RCW 4.24.130, which governs the name-change process in Washington. In general, the changes to the law make it easier for people to obtain a waiver for the name-change fees. It also replaces all gendered pronouns with gender-neutral language throughout the law’s language.

At ELAP, we recognize the serious harm caused by inaccessibility in the name change process. We believe this change in the law will expand access to justice for our clients.

Here are highlights of the changes to this law:

  • A person who wants to change their name in Washington may now file a petition with the clerk in any district court division located in the county where they reside.
  •  If you are a survivor of domestic violence seeking a name change for yourself or your child and are concerned for your safety, you can file a name change not viewable in public records. You should file your petition in the superior court (not the district court) of the county in which you live.
  •  The law now requires the court to waive all auditor’s fees for filing and recording a name-change order if the person requesting faces financial hardship. An affidavit will need to be submitted. (The court will not waive the auditor’s fees if the petitioner has received victim compensation for name change fees.)
  • When the court grants the waiver, the court must direct the county auditor or recorder to process the name-change order at no expense to the petitioner.

If you are a King County resident wishing to request a name change in district court but are unable to pay the associated fees and costs due to financial hardship, use this sample affidavit to request a fee waiver. Complete the affidavit, sign it, and include it with your Petition for Name Change when you file it with the court clerk.

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