Looking to tie the knot with your life partner or put a country mile between your ex's name and you? The law makes it possible to take a new name. How you change your name in North Carolina depends on your situation. It's easiest when getting married, and common to do so when getting divorced. You can change your entire name by going through the legal system if that's what you want as well. We've got the details here for Tar Heel State residents looking to switch up their surname, including:
- Identifying the right process for you;
- Figuring out what paperwork should be filed; and
- Starting to use your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct North Carolina Legal Name Change Process
It's most common to change your name for marriage. North Carolina permits you to change your last name when applying for a marriage license. Simply fill out the application, submit it, and once your marriage is performed, your marriage certificate serves as proof of the change of name. Use it to change your driver license, Social Security card, and other registrations and records.
There are some options for changing your name after divorce. Women can resume their maiden name, the last name of a prior deceased spouse, or the last name of a prior living spouse if she has children with that last name. Men can change their last name back to their last name from before marriage. These separate provisions for women and men are written into North Carolina law. You can change your name during divorce proceedings by petitioning the court directly, or after your divorce goes through by applying to the clerk of the local court.
Applying for a Name Change – Adults
Most other name changes involve some heavy-lifting. Outside of a marriage or divorce, you can change your name in North Carolina by applying to the clerk of your local superior court. This is a lengthy and involved legal process. You'll have to:
- File an application with the clerk of the court;
- Submit a sworn statement that you're a bona fide resident of the county where the court sits;
- File a proof of your good character, offered by two citizens of the county who know you;
- Publish notice of the application through the courthouse;
- Mention any outstanding tax or child support obligations;
- State your reasons for desiring a name change; and
- Submit a state and national criminal history record check along with your fingerprints.
It's the court of the clerk who makes a decision, by determining whether there is 'good and sufficient reason' to grant or deny the name change. If your application is granted, then you'll receive a certificate, signed and sealed, proving your name change. If it's denied, you can appeal to a local judge or, if unsuccessful, try again after 12 months
Prohibited Name Changes
There are some restrictions. You can't change your name for any illegal or fraudulent purposes. Evading child or spousal support, hiding from the law, or trying to escape your debts won't work – and the clerk can revoke your name change. The name change process can only be used once (except for minor children who can use it twice), although you can change your name back later. Registered sex offenders can't change their name this way at all.
Applying for a Name Change – Minors
For minor children, the same process is required but there are some differences. A parent or guardian can file an application to change minor child's name. Most of the time, the consent of both parents will be required. But there are exceptions in the case of abandonment, or if one parent has convictions for child abuse, sex offenses, or assault against the child. For minors under sixteen years of age, a criminal history check and proof of good character aren't required.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order can legally change your name. But you're not quite out of the woods yet. Contact the Division of Motor Vehicles to change your driver license within sixty days. Your local Social Security office can update your Social Security card as well. It's also possible to update your birth certificate.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once you've got it, tell everyone about it! Family, friends, and employers will want to know about a name change. You should tell banks, businesses, other important contacts, and also update your email and social media accounts. The law cares about avoiding fraud, so it's best to consistently use your new name.
Get the Forms You Need in North Carolina
Sound complicated? Don't worry. FindLaw can help. We offer North Carolina name change forms that can see you through the process each step of the way. You can avoid the hassle of doing legal research, taking the time to figure out the legal steps, and even the high cost of hiring an attorney.