How to Change Your Child's Name in North Carolina

Name Change

How to Change Your Child’s Name in North Carolina

Since so much of our identity is wrapped up in our name, changing a child’s name shouldn’t be done lightly. But there are times when you may want to do it. For instance, grandparents who’ve been given sole custody of their grandchildren may want to change the children’s last name. A child who has been abandoned or harmed by one of their parents may want to change their name as well. Whatever the reason, North Carolina allows a child’s name to be changed in certain circumstances.

In North Carolina, an application for a minor’s name change can be filed by the child’s parent(s), a guardian, or a Rule 17 guardian ad litem. The application by the guardian ad litem may be joined by the application of the child’s parent(s).

To change a child’s name, both parents (if they are alive) must consent to the change. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. If the child is 16 years old, the child can file a name change application with the consent of the parent who has custody and has supported the minor—as long as the clerk of court is satisfied the other parent has abandoned the child.

For example, if there is a custody order giving both parents joint custody but one parent hasn’t contacted the child in five years, there may be a case for abandonment—depending on additional facts. You should speak to an attorney about your specific situation to be sure.

A parent may file a name change application on behalf of the child without consent of the other parent if the other parent has abandoned the child or been convicted of any of the following crimes against the child or one of the child’s siblings:

  • Felony or misdemeanor child abuse
  • Taking indecent liberties with a minor in violation of N.C.G.S. 14-202.1
  • Rape or any other sex offense in violation of Article 7B of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes
  • Incest in violation of N.C.G.S. 14-178
  • Assault, communicating a threat, or any other crime of violence

The parent seeking the name change must give the clerk of court proof of the conviction such as a certified copy of the other parent’s criminal record.

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To show abandonment, the parent or child my file a copy of an order that declares the other parent abandoned the child. If a court of competent jurisdiction hasn’t declared the child abandoned, the clerk can determine whether the child has been abandoned—so long as the other parent is given sufficient notice beforehand. Written notice must be sent to the other parent’s last known address via registered or certified mail. After 10 days, the proceeding can move forward.

If, after receiving notice, the other parent contests the abandonment claim, the statute doesn’t allow the clerk of court to decide if the other parent has abandoned the child. Instead, the clerk must transfer the issue to a court that does have jurisdiction to make that determination. If the court finds the parent did, in fact, abandon the child, the clerk won’t need the other parent’s consent and can move forward with the name change application.

If both parents consent to the name change, the process can be relatively straightforward. However, if one of the parents don’t consent, the process can quickly become complex. It’s a good idea to speak with an attorney before beginning the process so you know what to do—or have the attorney handle the process for you. If you have to litigate the issue of abandonment, you should seek legal counsel.

Our child welfare law specialists have extensive experience representing parents in child abandonment cases. Contact our office to schedule a consultation today.

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