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Change the name of a child under 18

Parents and guardians have the right to change the name of their child under age 18.

Probate and Family Court locations

The Details of Change the name of a child under 18

What you need for Change the name of a child under 18

In most cases, you’ll file to change your child’s name in Probate & Family Court. However, if there is already a proceeding regarding the child taking place in Juvenile Court, you should file to change the child’s name in Juvenile Court instead.  

The minor child should be listed as the petitioner, and the legal parents or court-appointed guardian will present the petition to the court.

You don't need to file to change your child’s name if:

  • You’re adopting someone and want to change their name as part of the adoption process — See The Court Adoption Process for more information.
  • A parentage judgment includes an order to change the child’s name — This means the process will include an Order to Amend Birth Certificate.

Otherwise, you must file the following forms:

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Fees for Change the name of a child under 18

Local courts accept different types of payments (cash, check, credit card, etc.). Call your court to find out which methods of payment are accepted in that location.

If you can’t pay the filing fee because you’re indigent, you can request that the fee be waived. If you can’t afford court fees, you need to qualify under the federal poverty income guidelines and file an Affidavit of Indigency. This explains your financial situation to the court so the court can decide whether or not you will need to pay your own fees. See our page on indigency to learn more.

If a family is seeking to change the name of 2 or more children with the same legal parents, you only have to pay the filing fee on 1 of the petitions.

Name Fee Unit
Filing Fee $150 each
Surcharge $15 each
Fee for Citation (Notice) for publication, if required $15 each
Filing fee for a motion to change name during divorce nisi period (if not requested on divorce complaint or petition) $100 each

How to change Change the name of a child under 18

You can file your request to change the name of your child at your local Probate and Family Court.

Next steps for Change the name of a child under 18

  1. Publish the citation

    After the petition is filed, the Probation Department will conduct a CARI and WMS check for any petitioner who is 12 or older.

    You need to give public notice of the petition by publishing it. The citation for publication will be sent to you by the court. If a family is seeking to change the name of 2 or more children with the same legal parents or guardians, you will only have to issue 1 citation. You must arrange to have the citation published in a local newspaper and mailed according to the instructions given in the order of notice on the citation. The mailing must be by certified mail, return receipt requested.

  2. Serve the papers on the necessary parties

    You must also give notice to any legal parent or court-appointed guardian who hasn’t approved the petition by serving a copy of the petition by mail, return receipt requested. See Service of Process in the Courts for more information. However, you don’t need to give notice if:

    • The legal parent or guardian has completed an adoption surrender
    • The court has terminated parental rights
    • The court has otherwise waived notice

    If the name change is requested by anyone who is incarcerated, on probation or parole, or committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center as a sexually dangerous person, you must also serve the citation by mail on:

    After publication and mailing, return the original citation with a clipping of the notice from the newspaper, the green return receipt postcard, and your signature certifying that you mailed and published the notice to the court.

    If you have a good reason for the notice not being published, you can file a motion to waive publication. An affidavit (a sworn statement) must be filed with the motion explaining why you do not want the notice published. You may have to go before a judge to present your reasons.

More info for Change the name of a child under 18

How soon your case will be heard will depend on the backlog of cases in the Probate and Family Court where your case has been filed. If an in-person hearing isn’t required in your case, once you have returned proof of service to the court and the return date has passed, the case will be sent to the judge.   

If there are objections to the petition, the court will conduct a trial to hear them. The court can either dismiss the petition or enter a decree permitting the name change. If there are no objections, the court may make a decision without a hearing.

If the name change is allowed, the court will issue you a decree of change of name and a certificate may be requested for a cost.

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