Are you getting married and want to take on your spouse's last name? Or contemplating divorce and hoping to change your name back to your pre-marital name? North Carolina has processes for these situations.
If you are looking to change your name for other reasons, there is a different process than changing your name during marriage or divorce. Common reasons are safety concerns, a name fitting your gender identity, or a name you are more drawn to.
The law makes it possible to take a new name in the State of North Carolina, but how you change your name depends on your situation.
It's easiest when getting married or divorced, but you can change your entire name at any time by going through the legal system.
North Carolina residents looking to change their name should learn:
- Identifying the right process for you
- Figuring out what paperwork should be filed
- When to start using your new name
North Carolina Legal Name Change Process: Marriage
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 with your preferred married name and submit it. Once your marriage is performed, your certified marriage certificate serves as proof of the change of name.
Use it to change your driver's license, Social Security card, and other registrations and records.
North Carolina Legal Name Change Process: Divorce
There are some options for changing your name after divorce. You may resume:
- Your maiden name
- The last name of a prior deceased spouse
- The last name of a prior living spouse if you have had children with that last name
- Your last name from before the marriage
You can change your name during divorce proceedings by:
- Petitioning the court directly
- Applying to the clerk of the local court after your divorce goes through
Name Change Petition: Process for 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 county clerk of your local superior court. This is a lengthy and involved legal process.
You'll have to complete all of the following tasks.
File an application with the county clerk of the court that:
- States your reasons for desiring a name change
- Mentions any outstanding tax or child support obligations you may have
File Other Paperwork
Along with the detailed application, you will need to submit:
- Sworn statement that you're a bona fide resident of the county where the court sits.
- Proof of your good character. This proof should be offered by two citizens of the county who know you.
- State and national criminal history background check through the State Bureau of Investigation
- Fingerprint card
You will need to publish a notice of intent indicating that you have filed the application for a name change through the courthouse.
Court Rulings on Name Changes
The county clerk will decide 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. This is a name change order, and you will need a certified copy of the order to present as proof of the name change when updating your documents.
If your application is denied, you can appeal to a local judge. If the appeal is unsuccessful, you can try again after 12 months have passed.
Prohibited Reasons for Name Changes
There are some restrictions to name changes. 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. The court clerk can revoke your name change.
The name change process can only be used once (except for minor children who can use it twice). You can change your name back later, which essentially "undoes" the name change.
Registered sex offenders can't change their names this way at all.
Name Change Petition: Process for Minor Children
A parent or guardian can file an application to change a minor child's name. Most of the time, the consent of both parents will be required.
There are exceptions in cases of:
- Abandonment from one parent
- One parent has convictions for child abuse, sex offenses, or assault against the child
For minors under sixteen years of age, a criminal history record check and proof of good character aren't required.
File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order can legally change your name. However, you are still responsible for putting agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DMV) on notice.
You need to follow the SSA and DMV's processes for updating your social security card and driver's license.
Social Security Card: Name Updates
Your local SSA office can update your Social Security card as well. You may be able to start the process online, but you will need to visit a local social security office location.
While in person, you will provide proof of:
After this, the Administration can issue you a new social security card.
Note that although your card will be updated with your new name, the number will stay the same. Your social security number follows you throughout your life, whether you change your name several times or not.
Driver's License: Name Updates
Once your social security card is updated, you will need to visit the DMV. The North Carolina DMV requires a name change to be reflected on your driver's license within 60 days of the change.
Make sure to wait at least 24-36 hours after updating your name with the SSA before attempting to update your license. The DMV confirms your name change with the Social Security Online Verification System, which needs a few days to update.
Your appointment at the DMV will need to be in person. You will need to bring a notarized driver's license application as well as documentation of the name change.
North Carolina Birth Certificate: Name Updates
It's possible to update your birth certificate, but only if you were born in North Carolina. You can do so by completing a Birth Certificate Modification Application Form and paying the filing fee.
This can only be filed once you have the certified copy of either your marriage certificate, name change order, or other documentation proving the name change.
After submission and processing, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Office of Vital Records will mail your updated birth certificate to you.
Name Changes: Using Your New Name
Once your new name is on file, you need to tell family, friends, and employers.
You need to update your information with banks, credit cards, businesses, and other important contacts.
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 Name Change Forms You Need in North Carolina
FindLaw offers North Carolina name change forms that outline the process each step of the way. You can avoid the hassle of doing legal research and taking the time to figure out the legal steps.
If you run into any questions or concerns, you can search for an attorney in your area. Local attorneys can help you with the name change process by using FindLaw's Attorney Directory.