Changing a name is a significant undertaking that impacts every legal document that bears a person's name, like a Social Security card, driver’s license, any deeds to real estate and other property, and even a birth certificate.
Reasons for a Legal Name Change
There are a lot of reasons why an individual would want to change her name. Many women choose to change their last names to their husbands’ names when they get married and often, divorced women opt to change their last names back to their family names.
An individual might also want to change her name to distance herself from an abusive family, to feel closer to her adopted family, to match her gender identity when undergoing gender reassignment or to make a foreign name easier for American colleagues and contacts to read and pronounce. A parent might want to change her child’s name after adopting a child or divorcing her child’s father.
Where and How to Change a Name in Charlotte
Under many circumstances, a person needs to file a Notice of Intent to Change Name with the clerk of the court for the county where he resides. To complete a name change in Charlotte, North Carolina, this court is the Clerk of Court, Special Proceedings Department of the Mecklenburg County Court. In the Notice of Intent to Change Name, certain information must be included:
- Current name.
- New name.
- County where individual resides.
- Statement about why he wants to change his name.
Filing a Notice of Intent to Change Name does not automatically change that person's name; it merely informs the court that she wants to change her name and begins the legal process. After filing a Notice of Intent to Change Name with the Mecklenburg County district clerk of court, the petitioner must take additional steps like filing a Petition for Name Change and obtaining two affidavits of good character.
Not every individual in Charlotte who wants a name change needs to go through this legal process with the Mecklenburg County district court. When a name change is requested in conjunction with a marriage or divorce, the process is much more straightforward. However, the court may reject a petition for a name change if it determines that the petitioner is pursuing the change for an illegal or unethical reason, such as:
- An attempt to evade child or spousal support.
- The petitioner is a registered sex offender.
- The petitioner has already legally changed her name.
- The petitioner is changing her name in an effort to commit fraud.
Changing a Name After Marriage
To change a legal name after marriage, the name change is a fairly simple process. When applying for a marriage license, the individual can indicate in the license application that she is legally changing her name upon marriage. The marriage certificate bearing the new name is proof of the legal name change. The person should submit copies of the marriage certificate to the Social Security Administration to change her Social Security card, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to change a driver’s license and any other government or private entities that require updated documents to show the new name.
Similarly, changing a name through a divorce is a simple, straightforward process. The divorcing party can include an order to legally revert her last name to a previous name she's used. Doing this as part of the divorce settlement avoids the sometimes lengthy process of petitioning to change a name through the court. But when you change your name this way, you are limited to using specific names.
Men can only change their names to other names they have used before marriage, and women can only change their names to their family names, the names of their deceased prior spouses or the names of their living prior spouses if they have children with these living prior spouses who share the spouses’ names.
Legally Changing a Name
Changing your name for a reason other than marriage or divorce requires taking additional steps with the Mecklenburg County district court. The process begins with filing a Notice of Intent to Change Name, followed by the Petition for Name Change. The Petition for Name Change is the official legal document that formally asks the court to legally change a name. The Petition for Name Change includes:
- Current name.
- County of residence.
- Place of birth.
- Names of both of petitioner's parents.
- Reason for requesting the name change.
These documents, along with two affidavits of good character from individuals who live in your county and who are not relatives, must be signed, notarized and submitted to the court. An affidavit of good character is a document that briefly discusses the petitioner's character, reason for the name change and that the petitioner is pursuing the name change in good faith.
If the court approves the name change, it issues a Certificate of Name Change. With this document, the new name can be used on all official documents, like passports and driver’s licenses.
Changing a Child’s Name
Legally changing a child’s name follows a similar process to changing an adult's name. One significant difference is that in North Carolina, a minor’s name may be changed twice. An adult’s may only be changed once, though an adult can revert to prior legal names.
A parent may file a Petition for Name Change on his child’s behalf with the court. If both of the child’s parents are living and have parental rights to the child, both parents must consent to the name change for it to be approved except for cases where the child has been abandoned, a parent has become delinquent with child support or there is a present safety risk to the child that the name change could help alleviate.
Minors under age 16 do not need to submit affidavits of good character to change their names, but minors ages 16 and 17 do. Additionally, one or both parents must complete and submit an Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax or Child Support Obligations when applying for a child’s name change.
Court Approval is Necessary for a Child's Name Change
Similar to an adult name change, the court must approve a child’s proposed name change after reviewing all notarized documents. The court may consider whether changing a child’s name is in the child’s best interest and opt to approve or reject the application accordingly.
Read More: How to Change My Child's Last Name If I Have Sole Custody
Using a New Legal Name
Once a name is legally changed, it can be used freely. This includes changing the name on work email signatures, getting new business cards printed, changing the name on social media accounts and introductions using the new name.
Using a new name does not automatically change it on official documents. Once a marriage license, divorce decree or Certificate of Name Change is obtained, the party must apply to use the new name on these documents:
- Driver’s license or state ID.
- School or workplace ID tags.
- Titles and deeds.
- Social Security card.
- Financial accounts.
- Birth certificate.
It is important to keep in mind that even after a legal name change, any existing records will continue to display the old name. These include records of previous arrests, court records and any media mentions of the old name. If another person conducts an internet background check, she will see every name and alias used in the past, including previous legal names, as well as the new legal name along with any nicknames.
- Once you legally change your name, also change your name on your driver's license by visiting the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.