How Does Name Change in NC Work?
Making a legal name change in NC is not usually legally difficult but can be extremely tedious. It’s also important to make sure that you understand all of the necessary steps, and local requirements, and some of the trickier timing issues. Changing your name is a separate process from correcting your gender marker. You may want to proceed with just a name change or tackle both. In North Carolina, you must have a reason listed in the statute or “good cause” to change your name. Let’s look at how name change in NC works.
Law in North Carolina
Our state makes allowances for a name change if you are going through any of these changes:
- Naturalization as a citizen
- Other good cause
The process of legally changing your name is different depending on the “why.” If you need to change your name because you don’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, or for other reasons unrelated to marriage, divorce, adoption, or naturalization, your reason for the change falls under “other good cause.”
Trans, GNC, & Non-Binary Reasons for Change
Trans, GNC, and non-binary individuals often face misunderstanding and outright discrimination when expressing their authentic selves. Simple actions can become complicated when your identification documents do not match your gender expression or identity. Even someone asking for your ID to check with your credit card in a retail store can cause problems and stress if your appearance does not match the gender marker or a presumed gender associated with your name on your driver’s license.
In North Carolina, there are procedures for individuals to modify name and gender identity markers. While you may make some changes without the assistance of an attorney, the process depends on a few factors:
- What documents you’d like to change
- Where you were born
- If you have any disqualifiers
Because the name and gender correction process can be complex, seeking out help from an experienced name change attorney is often helpful. Especially if you are a minor or if you have ever changed your name as an adult in North Carolina before, there may be some additional legal complications.
Civil Union and Domestic Partnership Name Changes
You would think that if you are a member of a civil union or domestic partnership, current laws would allow a name change for that reason. The law does allow for a legal name change, but the process is different than changing your name for a “marriage.”
If you’re in a civil union or domestic partnership, to obtain a legal name change in North Carolina, you must go through a lengthy process similar to changing your name for “Other Good Cause.”
Name Changes for “Other Good Cause”
The formal name-change process for “other good cause” begins by giving 10 days’ notice of your name change application by publication at the courthouse door. However, the state will waive the need to publicize your change for 10 days if you can provide evidence that you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking with a:
- Law enforcement, court, or other federal or state agency’s record or file
- Documentation from a program receiving funds from the Domestic Violence Center Fund
The next legal step is filing a petition before the county’s superior court clerk in which you reside. However, there are many steps you must take in order to be prepared to file the actual legal petition.
You’ll also need to gather and provide:
- Proof of good character by at least two citizens of the county who know your standing in the community
- Results of a state and national criminal history record check conducted within 90 days of the date of application. You will have to first obtain fingerprints in order to request these criminal history reports.
- A sworn statement that you are a bona fide resident of the county
- A sworn statement about whether you have outstanding tax or child support obligations
- Any other information that the clerk determines is reasonably necessary for the fair and complete review of the name change application.
In your application, you’ll need to give your true name, county of birth, date of birth, the full name of your parents as shown on your birth certificate, the name you desire to adopt, your reasons for desiring the name change, and whether your name has ever before been changed by law.
After filing, you can expect to receive your Order and Certificate of Name Change anywhere from a couple of days to 6-8 weeks later depending on the county.
After you obtain the legal name change order, you will need to provide the order to other government entities such as Vital Records, DMV, and the Social Security Administration to change your name on those government documents.
Name Changes for Minors
Often, teenagers may already know that the name or sex assigned at birth is not accurate for them. With the consent of parents, minors can legally change their name before they turn 18 years old. The process is different depending on whether the child is under the age of 16 years old or between 16 years old and 18 years old.
It can also be more legally complicated, though not impossible if only one parent is consenting or the other parent has “abandoned” the minor child. If you are a minor or a parent helping your child, we strongly recommend reaching out to the Scharff Law Firm or another attorney about the process for a name change.
Once you receive your Order and Certificate of Name Change, go ahead and change your name on all accounts with banks, utilities, or any other companies where you have accounts. Start using your new name everywhere you go. Always sign your new name in any official signatures once your name change is complete.
We Can Help
If you have any questions about how to get your name legally changed, which documents to file with the clerk in your county, or how to fill them out, contact us at Scharff Law for assistance. We would be glad to help with any legal issues you may have as you navigate the name change process.
We encourage persons who want to change their name or correct their gender marker to contact us for a free consultation and/or representation. Amily McCool, is a queer cis attorney at Scharff Law (she/her/hers) and committed to assisting you through this process.