What to expect on your court day to change your child's name

You may have a court hearing as part of your request to change your child's name, though not always. If the other parent filed an objection, you will have a hearing. If you do have a hearing, here's what to expect during your day in court.

Before your court day

Make sure you have to show up at the hearing

If you are the parent asking for the name change, make sure you have to show up at the hearing. In some courts, the judge may order the change of name, without a hearing, as long as: 

  • You served your child’s other parent and the other parent did not object (oppose) your request in writing, and 

  • You published the name change paper in a newspaper as required.  

If you forgot to ask when you filed your papers about the hearing, call the clerk’s office now to make sure you have to show up. 

Contact your court to see if the judge has a preference. Sometimes, depending on the child's age, the judge may prefer that the child attends the hearing.

If your hearing was cancelled because the judge already signed an order changing your child's name (called a Decree), then you can pick up your Decree. You will likely need to get a certified copy of the order in order to change your child's IDs and other records.

Your day in court

If this is the first time you've been in a courtroom, review some basic tips about how to plan for your day in court.

You may need to wait before your hearing

Keep in mind that other people may have a hearing the same day as you. Your case may not be called right away. You may end up waiting a few minutes or even more than an hour before it’s your turn.

The judge calls your case 

Walk to the front of the courtroom

When it is your turn, the judge will call your names and say your case number. You go up to the front.  If your child's other parent is there (or anyone who objected), they will also come up. Someone, usually the bailiff or a clerk, will show you which side to take and tell you to sit down. The bailiff is usually the person in charge of keeping order in the courtroom.

Tell the judge your name and answer their questions

The judge will ask you to say your names. Then, you may be asked to swear to tell the truth. The judge may ask you why you want to change your child’s name.  

The judge may also confirm that the name change request was published and served on the other parent, as required.  

If the other parent doesn’t agree to the name change, the judge will ask them why.

The judge makes a decision 

The judge will mostly likely make a decision at your hearing. If you are missing information, a proof of service that the other parent was served, or proof of publication from the newspaper, the judge may ask you to come back another day.   

If the other parent doesn’t show up, but you served them properly, the judge will likely move forward with the case. 

The judge signs the Decree

Once the judge makes a decision, the judge will need to sign a court order, called a Decree in name change cases. If the judge grants the name change, the judge will sign the Decree. If the judge decides against the name change, the request will be denied. 

  • If you turned in the Decree, form NC-130, when you filed your case, the judge will sign that and the clerk will file it. 
  • If you were told to hold on to the Decree until the hearing, turn it in to the judge to sign it and the clerk will file it.

  • If you didn’t prepare a Decree ahead of time, you may be given one to prepare yourself at the hearing.  

Make sure your Decree (form NC-130) says exactly what the judge ordered and has your child's new name spelled correctly.

In some courts, Self-Help Center staff may be able to help you with these forms.

Name change for your child

What's next?

If you didn't get a copy of the signed Decree at the hearing, you will need to get a copy. Once you have a signed Decree, next you'll likely need to get it certified. This means a clerk stamps that it is a real copy of the original order.

The next steps tell you how to pick up your signed Decree if you don't have it yet and also how to get it certified once you have it.

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