In North Carolina, there is a statutory process for legally changing an individual’s name. While similar in process, there are different requirements for name changes for adults and children.

There are multiple personal reasons an individual would want to change their legal name. Some examples include but are certainly not limited to:

  • A general desire to change the given name;
  • To make it easier for others to use and understand;
  • To simplify a complex or lengthy name;
  • To escape an abusive relationship and not be found;
  • To align name with gender identity

Adults in North Carolina are only allowed to complete a legal name change once (other than  through a marriage and divorce), so it is important that the decision to pursue a name change has been carefully considered and thought through.

Initiating a Name Change for an Adult

There are multiple requirements and steps involved in a legal name change for an adult. The first is presenting notice to change a name to the Clerk of Court in the County where the individual lives. That notice is then publicly posted at the courthouse for 10 days. Should there be a safety issue involved, this requirement can be waived for cause.

Once the ten day waiting period has occurred, a petition for name change is filed along with a number of other documents including federal and state background checks, affidavits of character, affidavits regarding outstanding tax or child support obligations, and certified copies of formal identification.

Initiating a Name Change for a Child

In order to legally change a minor child’s name, both of their parents must consent to the name change and apply for the name change jointly. The only exemption to this requirement is if one parent’s parental rights have been terminated by a court or if a second parent is not listed on the birth certificate.

Notice of the name change is publicly posted at the courthouse for 10 days, barring any significant safety issues. Once the ten day waiting period has occurred, the petition for name change is filed with additional required documents.

Depending on the child’s age, state and federal background checks and affidavits of character may be required.

Finalizing the Legal Name Change for Both an Adult and a Child

Following receipt of all legally required documents and fees, the Clerk of Court then reviews all documents for accuracy and determines if there is good and sufficient reason to grant the name change. All name changes are subject to a hearing, where the name change petition is either granted or denied.

Following the granting of a name change, an order for name change is issued and sent to the Office of Vital Records in the state where the individual was born, ordering a formal change to their birth certificate with the new name. The individual must then use the name change order and their newly issued birth certificate to update and change all identifying documents and personal records such as their social security card, passport, photo ID’s, as well as school, medical, financial, and personnel records.

Name Changes to Align with Gender

Completing a legal name change is one out of a number of steps that an individual may pursue in order to align their legal name and identifying documents with their gender identity. Stephenson & Fleming, LLP staff are committed to meeting the legal needs of the transgender community and can work with individuals to determine what specific steps they need to take to accomplish their name change or alter their gender marker on identifying documents.

Stephenson & Fleming, LLP can assist individuals and families with their name change needs throughout North Carolina. Contact us for a free telephone consultation to learn more.

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