Child Custody in Illinois: Gender Transitioning and Changing a Minor’s Name

Posted by Erin Birt | Mar 04, 2023 | 0 Comments

Child Custody in Illinois: Gender Transitioning and Changing a Minor's Name

Gender is front and center in our rapidly evolving society. Turn on the news, surf the web, or scroll through social media, and you are bound to hear or read about gender issues. In particular, gender identity development during childhood and adolescence is in the spotlight.

If you know or suspect the child, tween, or teen in your family is on the cusp of transitioning or has already transitioned, it is in your interest to consider a minor name change. Our Chicago child custody attorney is here to help with parental decision-making responsibilities and respect your child's wishes.

Decision-Making Responsibilities During Gender Identity Development

An increasing number of Illinois custody disputes have involved an offspring's gender identity development. In particular, youths exploring their gender identity or those transitioning tend to desire a new name. The question begs: who is responsible for the gender name change in an Illinois custody dispute? Who, exactly, makes decisions on behalf of a child, tween, or teen progressing through the process of gender identity development? If you have already divorced, the answers to the questions posed above might be found in your custody agreement. However, if no such agreement exists, mediation might be necessary.

Mediation involves key stakeholders ranging from the child in question to mental health therapists, child specialists, and more. This process allows for the drafting of a fair child custody agreement, setting the stage for families to work through the otherwise challenging issue of gender identity development and a name change without waiting for their turn in a litigation court system that has a backlog of cases to hear. Opt for mediation with the guidance of our child custody attorneys in Chicago, be patient, and justice will take its course.

An Example of Gender Identity Development

Dwayne Wade, an NBA champion and former star of the Miami Heat, has been in the spotlight after hanging up his basketball sneakers largely because of his child's gender transition. Wade's daughter, Zaya, underwent a gender change followed by a legal name change.

Zaya's case illustrates that gender transitioning medical issues and name changes are a custody matter. However, the path to Zaya's new identity was not without impediments. Wade's ex-wife — Zaya's mother — previously took legal action to prevent the gender transition and subsequent name change. A legal battle ensued in Los Angeles County court, with a judge siding with Zaya and Wade. As a result, the teen was legally permitted to transition to female and proceed with a formal name change from Zion Malachi Airamis Wade to Zaya Wade.

The Legal Process to Change a Minor's Name

A court order is necessary to formally change a minor's name from that on the birth certificate. It is only possible to change a minor's name if you are the minor's legal parent or if the minor has resided with the family for three years and is recognized as an adopted child. Though the process of a minor name change certainly seems daunting, our Chicago child custody attorney is here to help you surmount this hurdle. Our legal team will lend assistance in completing and filing the name change petition in the appropriate circuit court. As long as the reasoning is provided for the minor's name change, there is a good chance that the judge will deem the change in the child's best interest. Pay the necessary circuit court fee for the name change, and your minor will soon have a new identity. Regarding court considerations when reviewing a minor name change request, the judge focuses on:

  • The child's wishes
  • The parent's wishes
  • The child's adjustment to facets of life such as school and more

One parent can be allocated 100% of a medical issue, or it is also possible for both parents to share in that issue. More details about the court considerations for child custody issues, including minor name changes, are available in Statute (750 ILCS 5/602.5) Sec. 602.5., titled “Allocation of parental responsibilities: decision-making.”

Resources for Chicago LGBTQ Minors

Chicago has many potentially life-saving resources available for LGBTQ minors in need of guidance. If you or someone you know is an LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, a personal crisis, or another problem, be proactive by asking for assistance.

For example, assistance for youngsters ages 12 to 24 is available through The Broadway Youth Center space that provides meals, food gift cards, bus cards, and more. Located at 4009 North Broadway, The Broadway Youth Center can be reached at 773.388.1600.

Center on Halsted is the region's most expansive community centered on advancing the well-being of LGBTQ youths. Center on Halsted is located in the center of Chicago's Lakeview Neighborhood. You can reach this invaluable community resource by dialing (773) 472-6469.

Schedule a Consultation With Birt Law

If you are considering a divorce, in the midst of a divorce, or dealing with child custody issues with a minor child dealing with gender identity challenges, it is in your interest to seek legal counsel. Our child custody attorney is here to help you and your child, setting the stage for a successful transition to a new name.

Contact us today at 630-891-2478 to learn more about how our legal team can help you and your loved ones surmount gender identity and child custody hurdles.

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About the Author

Erin Birt

Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on parenting time, divorce, mediation, and substance abuse issues. Ms. Birt's unique background in both family law and addictions counseling help her clients successfully navigate the complex issues of coparenting and divorce. Ms. Birt also devotes her time to presenting at continuing education seminars for attorneys, mediators, and counselors.


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