In North Carolina, if you are at least eighteen years old, you can petition the court to allow your name to be changed. However, residents are generally only permitted to change their name one time outside of marriage or divorce proceedings. Let’s look at the entire process and how long it takes to legally change your name.
THE FIRST 10 DAYS
If you want to change your name for good cause (other than marriage, divorce, or naturalization) you must apply with the clerk of court in the county you live in. However, first, you must give ten days notice of the application by publication at the courthouse door.
You are not required to post the 10-day notice if you are a participant in an address confidentiality program. You are also not required if you have evidence that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking. Your evidence can include:
- Law enforcement, court, or other federal or state agency records or files.
- Documentation from a program receiving funds from the Domestic Violence Center Fund if the applicant is a victim of domestic violence.
FILING THE PETITION
When filing your petition with the court, you will need quite a bit of information. Depending on how long it takes to the gather the required proof of who you are, this can take a few days to several weeks or even months. Your application must include:
- Your true name
- County of birth
- Date of birth
- Full name of parents as shown on your birth certificate
- The new name you desire
You will also need to make a sworn statement that:
- You are a bona fide resident and live in the county you applied in
- Whether or not you have outstanding tax or child support obligations
CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK
You will also need a state and national criminal history record check conducted within 90 days of the application date. This check requires an original fingerprint card made at the sheriff’s office where you live. The State Bureau of Investigation generally takes anywhere from 3-7 days to complete a background check. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can take three weeks to finish your check.
It is best to send your Federal background check in first and wait for it to come back before sending in your state background check. This way, your state background check won’t expire before you receive the Federal check back. These must both be finished during the 90 day period before you apply for the name change.
You must also file two witness affidavits signed in the presence of a notary public attesting to your good character. How long it takes to gather these documents depends on who you ask to write an affidavit for you and how long they take. If you are in a hurry, you might ask for them to finish by a specific date and time.
DOCUMENTS YOU WILL NEED
- “Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax/Child Support Obligations”
- Certified Copy of Birth Certificate: If you don’t have this, you will have to apply to the state and county you were born to receive a certified copy. This can add another several weeks to your name change process.
- Proof of Identification
- Proof of Residency
- Original Fingerprint Cards (One Federal and one State)
- Affidavits of Character
- Filing fee ($120) cash or certified check or Petition to file as an Indigent to have the fee waived
OTHER NECESSARY INFORMATION
The clerk may require you to provide other information that is reasonably necessary for the fair and complete review of your name change application. Depending on the information needed, this could take additional time. If there is a hearing, you will need to appear in court and may feel better with an attorney who can plead your case.
After you have completed everything, the clerk will review all the information in the application and decide whether you have a good reason to change your name. The clerk will then grant or deny the name change. You will then receive your Order and Certificate of Name Change 6-8 weeks later.
There are many good reasons to want to change your name outside of the “usual” ones. If you’ve had some kind of identity change related to who you are that you feel strongly necessitates a new name, this is your prerogative, and the law recognizes your right to be known as the name you desire to use. Often a gender change, a spiritual conversion, a change of family allegiance, a lifestyle change, or a new lease on life can prompt a desire for a name change.
In general, the clerks of court approve most name change applications in the counties of North Carolina unless there is a significant problem such as
- Fraudulent nature of the request
- Trying to avoid criminal prosecution
- Trying to avoid repayment of a debt
- Prior criminal convictions of a sexual nature
- Objections from other family or children
- New names that are inappropriate for identification purposes or are hurtful to others
In North Carolina, if you receive a denial, the order denying the name change shall state the reasons for the denial. If you want to appeal the clerk’s decision, you can petition the resident superior court judge within 30 days to request a reconsideration of the application.
Your name change petition will likely be successful. However, if you would like help to complete the steps or are unsure how to go about filing your petition, the affidavits, statements, and criminal background check, we would love to help you make your case. At Scharff Law, we have experience in the name change process and want to make sure your case is successful no matter what your reason for a name change.