[3-11-2019 Update: I just found out this information from a post on Facebook. From the FBI website you can complete the online background application, including paying the $18 on-line, and then mail in your fingerprint card. It takes less than 2 weeks to get a report back in email. I wish I had known this before I sent mine in.]
I have just started my journey into the name change process, the background investigations. The process seems daunting despite being, in most cases, only 12 pages of the same information over and over. Changing your name will vary by state but is essentially the same process for everyone in the USA. I will tell you of the process in my state of North Carolina and hopefully it will help you in some way. A name change can be for any reason, not necessarily because you want to shed your deadname and legalize your true name.
First thing I suggest throughout the entire process, take a breath, take each step one at a time. It is easy, because you will be sending things out to various entities and government departments, to get overwhelmed with information and minutia of the process.
Here are the steps in the easiest format:
- Get your fingerprints. You will need two copies of FD-258.
This usually means going to the Sheriff’s department and paying $10 for both copies. Costs can vary, check first because you will need to bring it in cash. I found the experience easy and not at all problematic. The person doing the fingerprints was a sweet old man and he was funny and nice. You don’t have to tell them why you are doing the fingerprints specifically, but they will need to categorize it so “name change” is good enough.
- Send in your background checks. FBI and your SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) background checks.
Each agency charges for these background checks, $18 for the FBI, $14 for the NCBI. Both require either money order or cashier’s check, personal checks are not allowed. The FBI does have a credit card form to use if you like. These checks may sound daunting, just because now you have two investigative agencies looking at you. Don’t worry overly much, they are looking for specific information and not dissecting your life. If you have outstanding tax debt or child support then you may have issues, otherwise you are likely clear. It takes about three months to get both back and this wait will seem like an eternity. Use that time for the next step.
- Get a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Even if you have a certified copy of your birth certificate, if it is not issued within 6 months of your court filing you will need to get another certified copy. Silly? Yes, it seems silly and very unfortunate for me, since I was born abroad, so I must go through the consulate to get mine. It can take 4 to 6 weeks, so file for this once your send in your background check info. The cost? $50 is the standard from what I can tell, more for expedited service.
- File your Notice of Intent to File Name Change
Once you get both background checks back, go to the clerk’s office to file the Notice. This can probably vary, your state may require you just post the intent in the newspaper, etc. For NC, the notice will hang for 10 days at the courthouse. After the ten days, you will go to the clerk’s office again to ask them to remove it.
- After the ten days, you will file with the Court Clerk.
This is where you need all the court filing paperwork.
- Two affidavits of Character – signers cannot be from your household and must be from within your state. These will both need to be notarized.
- Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax or Child Support Obligations – Completed by you in front of a notary public and notarized.
- Petition for Name Change – This is Completed by you.
- Court Order – This is completed by your and signed by the Court Clerk.
All of the court paperwork will have a “From: / To:” or an “Of: / To:” on each document. This is where you will put your current and new names. The clerk will file the petition, read the background checks, affidavits of good character, and look for outstanding tax debt. If nothing comes up, you will get your name change order signed, and that’s it.
Simple right? It’s a long hard slog, but it is worth it in the end. Don’t forget that after this, you likely have a lot of things that have your name on them, driver’s license, Birth Certificate, car title, credit cards, bank accounts, etc. Time to start the next long hard slog. Take things one at a time and remember to breath.