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Businesswoman signing paperworkEveryone has the right to legally change their name, as long as the request is not inconsistent with the public interest. When you change your name as an adult, you’ll need to go through a court proceeding. If the court allows your petition, you will receive a certificate to bring to the appropriate agency to change your official documents, such as a driver’s license, passport, and Social Security card.

The Massachusetts Court System has information to help guide you through the process and make your transaction as smooth as possible.

Who Can Change Their Name?

If you live in Massachusetts and are 18 or older, you can file a Petition for Change of Name. Parents may file to change their child’s name if the child is a minor. You can file your name change forms at the Probate and Family Court in the county you live in.

You don’t have to file for a name change if you’re getting married in Massachusetts — just list your new married name on your marriage license. If you don’t change your name when you get married and you decide to change your name later, you will have to file a Petition for Change of Name with the court.

What Forms and Fees Are Required?

To file, you’ll need to submit the correct name change forms, documents, and fees, including:

Additional forms and fees may be required in some cases, like when you change the name of a minor or petition for a name change during a divorce.

What Happens After I File?

After you file a petition, the court will request a criminal record check on you and/or a minor child over the age of 11 from the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.

The court will also send a Notice of Petition for Change of Name, which instructs you to provide public notice of your request by publishing the notice in a local newspaper. This notice is also known as a citation. Read the citation carefully, because it tells you where and when to publish the notice. The newspaper may charge you a fee for publishing.

After you have published the notice, return the following documents to the court:

  • The original citation you received from the court
  • A copy of the notice from the newspaper, showing the date of publication
  • The Return of Service on the second page of the citation, completed by you and signed explaining how you served the citation

Please note that if you filed the Petition for Change of Name on behalf of a minor, you also must mail a copy of the notice to the other parent and indicate that you did this on the Return of Service.  The other parent may also assent to or sign the petition with you.

In rare cases, the court may waive the requirement to publish in a newspaper. Your reasons for requesting this must be significant. You must file a motion requesting a waiver with an affidavit explaining why you are requesting it. The court may schedule a hearing for you to present the motion to the judge.

When Will the Court Decide My Case?

If an in-person hearing isn’t required, your case will be submitted for administrative allowance by the judge once you’ve returned the completed citation to the court and/or the motion to waive publication, and the deadline to file an appearance/objection has passed. If the petition is approved by the judge, the court will issue you a decree and certificate with your new name.

If there are objections, the court will schedule a hearing. After a hearing, the court may schedule a trial date, dismiss your petition, or sign a change of name decree. If the judge allows your change of name request, the court will issue a decree and certificate with your new name.

Comment below or tweet @MassGov with any questions about the legal name change process in Massachusetts.

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