How to Change your Name in Maine


Here is what you need to know about how to change your name in Maine. This information is general and everyone’s situation is different. It is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before beginning any legal action.

File your name change petition in the county where you live.

You should go to your local Probate Court and ask for a copy of a petition for change of name. There are different types of petitions for adults and minors. You may need a copy of your ID or some proof that you live in the county where you are filing. There may be a fee for a copy of the forms. Every Probate Court sets their own fees (for example, here are the fees for Cumberland County) and may have different procedures.


Notice of your name change will be published in a newspaper. Some probate courts will publish the notice for you. You should check what the procedure is at your local probate court. If you are a victim of abuse and are in reasonable fear for your safety, you can motion the Probate Court to limit the notice of your name change. Some courts may also require you to notify your spouse, if you are married.


Some Probate Courts require you to come back to court for a hearing about your name change. That hearing might be in a courtroom or might be in chambers with the Judge. Some Probate Courts do not require you to come back for a hearing. You should check with your local Court about their procedure. Unless the court believes that your name change is sought for the purpose of defrauding another person or entity or other reasons contrary to the public interest, the court may change your name after hearing.

What if you are filing for a minor?

If you are filing on behalf of a minor, you should request a petition for change of name of a minor. Only a legal custodian of a minor may petition for a name change. Even if a parent has been awarded sole parental rights and responsibilities, or “sole custody,” the child’s other parent may need to give written consent or consent in person at court to the name change. If you are concerned that they may not consent or you do not know where they are, you should talk with a lawyer before petitioning the court.

Do I have to do anything else?

The Court can ask you to have a criminal history record check, a motor vehicle record check, or a credit check, and can make you pay for those types of background checks. If you are transgender, you should not have to prove that you have taken certain steps in your transition, and you should not have to present any doctors letters or medical records to change your name.

Can my name change be denied?

The statute that governs name changes states the probate court may change your name, but it does not state that the probate court must change your name. If your name change is denied, you should receive an order from the court that gives the reasons why your request was denied and you should contact an attorney immediately because you have a very short time to appeal.

Maine Guide to Changing Gender Markers on Identity Documents


Maine Drivers License

To change the gender marker on your Maine drivers license, you need to bring an original signed Gender Designation Form stating that you request your gender marker be changed to reflect your gender identity to your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The form is available online at the State’s BMV forms page. The form must be completed by a licensed physician, counsel, or licensed social worker. Your local BMV office will issue a replacement license with your new gender marker and should take a new photo. The BMV office should not request any medical documentation, letter, or evidence other than your correctly completed gender designation form to make the change. The fee for a replacement license is $5.00. BMV may mail you the license.


To change the gender marker on your U.S. passport, you must apply in person for a new passport with form DS-11. You also need proof of citizenship and of your identity, a photo that meets passport requirements (2 inches by 2 inches that accurately reflects your current appearance, and with a white or off-white background), the fee for a new passport, and an appropriate physician letter.  The doctor letter must be an original, be on letterhead and must include the following information:

  • Physician’s full name
  • Medical license or certificate number
  • Issuing state or other jurisdiction of medical license/certificate
  • Address and telephone number of the physician
  • Language stating that he or she is your attending physician and that he or she has a doctor/patient relationship with you
  • Language stating you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (male or female)
  • Language stating “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct”

Social Security Record

To change your social security record, you must bring your local Social Security office either some official government-issued identification showing the desired gender marker, or a signed letter under oath from a physician on their office letterhead that includes their license number, states they they have a doctor/patient relationship with you, and states that you have had appropriate medical treatment for transition to the new gender.

Birth Certificate

You need to follow the procedure of the state or country where you were born to change your gender marker on your birth certificate. In Maine, you may change the gender marker on your birth certificate if you have had a “surgical procedure” to change your sex and a legal name change. You need to provide a notarized affidavit from the physician who performed the procedure to the Office of Vital Statistics along with a form VS-7 requesting that your birth certificate be amended. The state should issue a new birth certificate showing your new gender marker. The official certificate will show the annotations, but any copies should only reflect the new gender.

Other Documents

If you have questions about these documents or about other types of documents, you should contact a lawyer.

What do Same Sex Couples Need to Know about Divorce?


Were you married in Maine or in another state and need to get divorced in Maine? Make sure that you have a lawyer who has experience with and knows about the different issues that are involved in same-sex marriages. There are a number of issues that can have an impact on your divorce case that your lawyer must be aware of and know how to work with in order to represent your interests. Here are some of the issues you should make sure your divorce attorney knows about and understands as they impact your legal rights.

What is your marital status?

Think that domestic partnership or civil union that you had with an ex-partner five years ago in another state but you never dissolved before you got married doesn’t matter?  Think again – you might have already been married but you didn’t know it. If you entered into a civil union, domestic partnership, or some other type of legal relationship with someone and never undid it, and then got married, you need to talk with a lawyer who understands what your legal status is before you file for divorce.

When and where were you married?

Were you married in one state or country and then moved to another state that didn’t recognize that marriage at the time? Did that state later recognize same-sex marriage? What does that mean for you? Does it change the date that your marriage began? The start date of your marriage matters because property acquired during a marriage may be, with some exceptions, marital property. It also matters because you can only receive some types of benefits, or spousal support, if you have been married for a certain length of time.

Did you buy a home with your spouse?

When and where you bought your home and what your marital status was at the time, matters. If you were married in Massachusetts in 2005 and moved to Maine in 2007 and bought a house together, that home is probably marital property.

Do you and your spouse have children?

Were the children born during the marriage? Did either of you adopt? Did you use a sperm donor? Were the children from a prior relationship? Do you have a parenting agreement? Do you know how to count income for student loans or for the FAFSA?  Make sure you talk to an attorney who can help you understand your rights regarding your children.

Do either of you receive benefits or have retirement accounts?

Do you or your spouse have an IRA, 401(k), pension, or 403(b) plan? Were either of you a veteran? Were either of you a public employee? If so, you or your spouse may have a claim to a portion of these benefits.

Other issues

Do either of you owe student loans? Do you know what your rights are about social security retirement benefits?

Make sure you find a lawyer who is experienced in the legal issues that affect your rights. At Portland Legal LLC, we have the experience and knowledge to help you navigate this area. Contact us at www.portlandmainelegal.com 

US Bankruptcy Court in 2 states declare DOMA inapplicable and unconstitutional


Two months, two opinions. The US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and the US Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, in two separate decisions, have held that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and will not hold up to judicial scrutiny. On May 4, 2011 New York declared that a joint bankruptcy filed by a legally married same-sex couple may not be dismissed solely because DOMA defines a spouse as “a person of opposite sex who is a husband or wife.” On June 13, 2011, California took this one step further by holding that, not only did DOMA not prevent a same-sex couple from jointly filing for bankruptcy, it actually “deprives [the couple] of the equal protection of the law to which they are entitled,” and “violates their equal protection rights afforded under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

When you think of groundbreaking legal events, “bankruptcy court” may not be the first thing that springs to mind. These opinions, however, may open the door for more comprehensive attacks on DOMA. These opinions may eventually lead to repeal of DOMA. Only time will tell, but whatever follows in the months and years ahead, we should remember that the US Bankruptcy Court was willing to stand up for the LGBT community, and uphold the community’s constitutional rights in the face of great legal and political pressure.

Marriage – It’s about more than a commitment


As of July 24, 2011, it will be legal for same-sex couples to marry in New York state. As a Mainer, may be tempting for you and your partner to race to the Big Apple for some fast-track nuptials. Before you buy your plane tickets or pack the car, however, there are a few things you should consider.

The state of Maine does not currently recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. That means that when you come home after your destination wedding, whether in New York, or in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, or any other state that allows same-sex marriage, you will still not be considered legally wed in your home town. Beyond that, there is a provision in Maine law stating that if a couple leaves the state to get married for the purposes of evading Maine law – which is what you would be doing by going to New York for your same-sex wedding – then your marriage is void.

It may not sound like there is much difference between “void” and “not recognized.” When it comes to the law, however, words have very specific meanings, and what may not sound different can, in fact, have very difference consequences. Because you would be leaving the state for the purpose of obtaining a marriage license that would not be granted here, your marriage would probably be considered void under Maine law. This means that, even when Maine does recognize same-sex marriages from out of state, or when Maine grants marriage licenses to same-sex couples here, your marriage could be considered invalid, because it was void when it was issued.

There is still time before you head South and take the plunge into wedded bliss to consult with a lawyer. There is far more to this issue than can be covered in one blog post, and meeting with a lawyer who can sit down with you and explain all of the potential issues that can arise from an out-of-state same-sex marriage will be more than worth your time.

Discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Act


Have you been told by a potential landlord that you were denied for housing because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression or that it was because they did not approve of the sex of your partner or of your “lifestyle”?  Has an employer made an adverse job decision that has negatively affected you because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression?  If so, then you might consider speaking to a lawyer about your rights and the Maine Human Rights Commission.  The Maine Human Rights Commission is a state agency that is in charge of investigating and enforcing Maine’s anti-discrimination laws, as set out in the Maine Human Right Act.  The Maine Human Rights Act covers areas ranging from employment, housing, and public accommodations to fair credit extension and educational opportunities. The Act outlines the definition of sexual orientation in the act as being actual or perceived “heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”

Even though many of us may believe and wish to believe that discrimination against our fellow community members is lessening over the years, it is always good to know that there is a state agency that is vested with the power to hear complaints related specifically to discrimination based on our actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. To learn more about the Maine Human Rights Commission and their procedures– visit their homepage – they even have an online form to submit complaints.

There are other actions you can take in addition to going through the Maine Human Rights Commission.  You may have a case under federal law or in state court.  If you believe that a discriminatory act has happened to you, you should seek the advice of counsel immediately.

New Federal Guidance on Housing Discrimination


Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) issued guidelines about housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The new guidelines makes clear that HUD’s position on such discrimination is that it is prohibited under the Fair Housing Act, although the federal law does not currently specifically state that it covers sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.

A new development in the HUD guidance is that the agency now indicates that discrimination against transgender or transsexual individuals may be considered sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. At least one federal court has also indicated that gender identity discrimination may be covered under laws barring sex discrimination.

Although this guidance provides a way for lawyers fight for clients who have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, amending the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation or gender identity as illegal grounds for discrimination would do far more to deter such conduct.

Probate Judges must give reasons for denying name changes


The Law Court recently returned a decision on the appeal of a name change of a transgender identified individual. The Law Court, in their decision, noted that there was nothing in the record that evidenced fraud on the part of the petitioner and remanded the case back to the Probate Court for further action. The Law Court directed the Probate Court that if the request for name change was denied, again, that the decision be in writing and with details as to the reason for the denial. No action has happened since the decision was published, but it is anticipated that an additional hearing will take place in the near future.

The reason this is interesting for transgender individuals is because some Probate Courts have requested additional information from transgender identified petitioners that are not related to the statute or case law for name changes in the State of Maine. The decision from the Law Court did not address the additional level of scrutiny that has been applied by some Probate Judges to perceived transgender petitioners, but it is anticipated that if the Probate Court denies the name change on the basis of the petitioner’s transgender status, that this will become an issue before the Law Court in the near future.

New Policy regarding Gender Change for Passports


The State Department announced yesterday that it would be changing a long-standing policy that controlled how transgender or transsexual individuals changed the gender marker on their passports. The old policy required that such individuals have surgery before they could change the gender marker.

According to the press release on the policy, surgery will no longer be required. The new policy requires that an attending medical physician certify that the applicant has “undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” However, regulations regarding exactly what appropriate clinical treatment may be required under the new policy have not yet been disseminated.

The policy does not allow passport officials to ask for additional medical information other than the certification.

Updated: 2:30 P.M. The guidelines are available here.

The medical certification permits a psychiatrist, internist, endocrinologist, gynecologist, or urologist to give certification. The certification must include the physician’s full name, their medical license or certificate number, the issuing state or other jurisdiction of their medical license, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number assigned to the physician, the address and telephone number of the physician, and must contain the following language:

(1) Language stating that he/she is the attending physician for the applicant and that he/she has a doctor/patient relationship with the applicant;

(2) Language stating the applicant has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (male or female);

(3) Language stating “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct”: and

(4) Annotate the application “gender transition” to record the reason for issuing the full validity passport in the new gender.

Presidential Memo Extending some Benefits to Same-Sex Partners


On Tuesday, June 2, President Obama signed an Executive Memorandum that extended some health benefits to family members of federal employees involved in same-sex relationships. The effect of this memorandum is to give some benefits that are currently given to married partners of federal employees to domestic partners of federal employees.

The practical effect on you, if you are an employee of the federal government and if you and your same-sex partner are domestic partners, includes the following:

Your children may be able to get the same subsidies for child care as your counterparts with opposite sex spouses.

Your partner may be able to get some benefits that are given to family members under employee assistance programs.

Your domestic partner may qualify for portions of your federal retirement annuity if you provide for them to do so.

Your domestic partner may qualify for evacuation, relocation, travel, or other payments, under certain circumstances.

You can now take some time under the Family Medical Leave Act for the needs of your domestic partner.

Your partner may be entitled to other payments or assistance under federal law where such assistance is given to partners of married employees.

Despite these benefits extended for domestic partners of federal employees, the memorandum does not extend health coverage or other benefits that are currently given to married partners. The President indicates that legislative action is needed in the future to provide more benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.

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