Today's blog is by Jenny Bradley of Triangle Smart Divorce in Cary, NC. We are so appreciative of our friends in the community who gracously share their knowledge and expertise.
Names matter. Names are part of our identity. Many cultures have naming ceremonies. What if you feel like the name you were given, the name you received or the name you married into isn’t reflective of your identity? Are you stuck? Not if you are an adult in North Carolina where you can change your name one time.
Chapter 101 of the North Carolina General Statutes sets out all the technical requirements about how to change your name if you wish to change your name for any reason other than due to marriage, divorce or death of a spouse. Without boring you to death with a recitation of the entire law, here’s the quick and skinny version of what is required:
- An applicant must submit a petition to the clerk of superior court;
- Before filing the petition, the applicant must publish notice at the courthouse for ten days; and
- Along with the petition, the applicant must submit:
- Proof of the applicant’s good character by two county citizens;
- FBI and State Bureau of Investigations Record Checks (which will include fingerprinting); and
- A sworn statement that the applicant is a resident of and is domiciled in, the county where the change of name is sought, as well as whether or not the applicant has outstanding tax or child support obligations.
The Clerk then reviews the petition and other submissions and determines whether a name change should be granted or denied. In Wake County, the Clerk is located at in the Special Proceedings Office on the 12th floor of the Courthouse at 316 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC and can be reached at 919-792-4600. Once the Clerk grants the Order for a name change, the Clerk then forwards the Order to the Vital Records department and the Department of Public Safety, both of which are required to update their records. The Clerk will mail you a copy of the Order and Certificate of Name Change which you will take to the Social Security Administration along with other required documentation. After applying for a new Social Security card, you should wait at least 48 hours before going to the Department of Motor Vehicles to update your driver's license. The Social Security Administration is at 4701 Old Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The phone number is 877-803-6311.
If you need to update your gender marker on your North Carolina ID, as well as updating your name, you will need to designate your “sex” (as the NCDMV calls it) on your ID, by completing the form found HERE OR presenting passport with the correct gender marker OR a court order recognizing your gender.
If your name change is due to marriage, then the process is less involved. You’ll need a certified copy of your marriage license in order to change your name on your driver’s license and your Social Security card. Wait at least 10 (TEN) days after the ceremony is performed to allow sufficient time for your license to be returned to the Register of Deeds. For marriages which occurred in Wake County, request your certified copy of your marriage license online, by mail, or in person at the Wake County Register of Deeds office located in the Wake County Justice Center, 300 S. Salisbury St., Suite 1700, Raleigh, NC 27601. Take your certified copy of your marriage license along with other required documentation to the Social Security Administration. After applying for a new Social Security card, you should wait at least 48 hours before going to the Department of Motor Vehicles to update your driver's license. The Social Security Administration is at 4701 Old Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. The phone number is 877-803-6311.
If your name change is due to divorce or death of a spouse, you may use a standard form to resume your former name. The form can be found HERE. You will incur a small fee and need a certified copy of the divorce decree or death certificate, as well as photo ID, when you present this form to the clerk’s office. In Wake County, the cashier and clerk’s office are on the 1st Floor of the Courthouse at 316 Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC and can be reached at 919-792-4000. Take the certified copy of the resumption of former name form along with other required documentation to the SSA. Wait at least 48 hours after applying for a new Social Security Card and then proceed to DMV for a new license.
And once you change your name, do not forget to change it EVERYWHERE, including, but not limited to the following:
Banks and other financial institutions
Emergency contact forms
Powers of Attorney
Estate Planning Documents
Legally changing your name and/or gender identity can be somewhat confusing and convoluted for some. While I have outlined the general processes for 3 types of name changes, there are exceptions to the technical rules which I have not delved into here. Do not hesitate to reach out to a professional to help you should you be confused or overwhelmed. The free on-line forms I found while writing this article have not been updated to include the inclusion of a statement of whether or not the applicant has outstanding tax or child support obligations. Failure to follow the technicalities of the statutes regarding name changes will result in denial of your name change. No one wants that!