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How to Legally Change Your Name

Wanting to legally change your name is a relatively common need. You may want to change your name randomly, but there are specific reasons that North Carolina recognizes as valid. It is common to change your name if you are going through any of these changes:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Adoption
  • Naturalization as a citizen
  • Other good cause

The process of legally changing your name is different depending on the “why.” Let’s look at how to change your name for each of these reasons. 

Name Change in Marriage or Divorce

If you are getting married or divorced, you don’t need to change your name on your birth certificate.

A legal name change that does not affect your birth certificate stays on your legal records as an “alias.” An “alias” just means that financial or governmental records will have a history of each name change along with your original name from your birth certificate. Your number of aliases depends on whether you change your middle name and how many times you marry or divorce.

To legally change your name for Social Security after marriage or divorce, bring the listed documents providing proof of name change and evidence of who you are to a Social Security office. Call to find out if an appointment is necessary. 

To change your state driver’s license or ID, go to the DMV and show them your government certified marriage certificate or bring your divorce decree and DL-101 completed form.


If you want to change your name due to adoption, update your birth certificate by obtaining a court order. Begin by filing a “Notice of Intent to Change Name” at the clerk of court in the county of your residence. The clerk will post the notice on the courthouse bulletin board for ten days. After the notice has been up for ten business days, you can file a petition with the same clerk of court to change the birth name. 

You must also sign and file two “Affidavits of Good Character” by unrelated persons. This is done in front of a notary public. You will also undergo a criminal background check and may need these listed documents:

  • “Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax/Child Support Obligations”
  • Certified Copy of Birth Certificate
  • Proof of Identification 
  • Proof of Residency
  • Filing fee ($120) cash or certified check or Petition to file as an Indigent to have the fee waived

The Clerk will review your documents and either sign or deny the official “Order and Certificate of Name Change.” Use this certificate in addition to evidence of who you are to change your name on necessary identification documents such as your North Carolina driver license, passport, social security card and birth certificate. 

Other Good Cause

In North Carolina, if you are a member of a same-sex relationship, there are not currently laws that allow for a civil union or domestic partnership.

You can, however, change your name to reflect your status if you choose to do so. To obtain a legal name change in North Carolina unrelated to legal marriage or divorce, an applicant must go through a legal process. Start by publishing a notice at the courthouse for 10 full days of your pending name change. You can do this by filing a petition with the Clerk of the Court in your county of residence. You should then receive your Order and Certificate of Name Change 6-8 weeks later.  Bring your legal name change order to the DMV for a new ID.

In North Carolina, the DMV has created a “Sex Designation Form” which you can complete in order to request an amended driver’s license with the correct gender identity marker.

You may also change your name on your birth certificate with a court order. The law in North Carolina does not currently allow a gender change on your NC birth certificate.


For changing your name on a naturalization certificate, you will need a court order. If you want to change your name after naturalization, you’ll file a name change petition in court using the process outlined above. Once you receive the name change from a court order, you can obtain a passport for your new legal name. USCIS will also issue you a new certificate of naturalization when you have the final order changing your name.

Name Change for Minors

In North Carolina, minors under the age of 16 must have a parent file for them and have both parents’ permission for a name change. Teenagers older than 16 years old must have permission from only the custodial parent if the other parent has abandoned them or been convicted of certain crimes. Be sure to check with the county clerk of court for the exact laws where you live.

What Next?

Be sure to 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 be sure to sign your new name in any official signatures once your name change is complete.


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 for assistance. We would be glad to help with any legal issues you may have as you walk through the name change process.