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Everyone has the right to change their name legally as long as it is not done for fraudulent or illegal purposes. In order to legally change your name in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you will need to go through a court name change proceeding. Here are a few points to keep in mind to make the transaction as smooth as possible:

What forms and fees are required?

Residents of Massachusetts can file for a name change if they are 18 years or older. For minors, parents may file to change their child’s name.

To properly file, you will need to submit a petition for name change form, along with a certified copy of your birth certificate available from the Registry of Vital Records. Name change forms can be filed at your local county Probate and Family Court. There is a $150 filing fee, with an additional $15 surcharge. Additional fees may apply depending on circumstances such as filing for a change during a divorce. Courts may accept different types of payment, so be sure to call your local court to find out ahead of time.

What happens after I file?

After a petition is filed, the court must request a criminal record check from the Office of the Commissioner of Probation for any petitioner 10 years old or older.

Additionally, you must arrange for public notice of the petition to be placed in a local publication such as a newspaper. The information required for publishing – called a citation –  will be sent to you by the court.

After publication, you must return the following to the court by mail:

  • the original citation with a clipping of the notice from a newspaper or other local publication;
  • the green return receipt post card; and,
  • your signature certifying that you mailed and published the notice to the court.

If you are unable to have the citation published, you may be able to file a motion to waive publication. A statement must be filed explaining the reason(s) why you do not want the notice to be published.

How soon will my case be heard?

The wait time before your case is heard will depend upon the backlog of cases in the Probate and Family Court where you’ve filed. If an in-person hearing is not required, your case will be sent to the judge once you have returned proof of a published citation to the court. If it is approved by the judge, the court will send you a certificate under the seal of the court, establishing the new name.

If there are objections to the petition, the court will conduct an in-person trial to hear them. The court can either dismiss the petition or enter a decree permitting the requested name change. If the name change is allowed, the Register of Probate will issue a certificate establishing the new name.

What about special circumstances?

In some cases, such as requesting to change the name of a minor or petitioning for a name change during a divorce, additional forms and fees may be required. Consult the individual requirements for these situations to determine what you may need.

Massachusetts residents have a right to use a name of their choice, with the exception of fraudulent or illegal purposes. Legal name changes as an adult require a court proceeding to obtain official documents such as a driver’s license, passport, or social security card with your new name. Double check to be sure you have paid the correct fees, filed the proper forms, and followed the public notice of petition process to ensure your request is approved smoothly.

Have you been through the legal name change process and have recommendations or tips? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @MassGov.

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