Legally change the name of a child under 18

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

Probate and Family Court locations

The Details   of Legally change the name of a child under 18

What you need   for Legally change the name of a child under 18

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

The petitioner is the minor child. The legal parents or court-appointed guardian will present the petition to the court. The petition must get approval from any legal parent or guardian, if not notice gets sent. See the section Serve the papers on the necessary parties for more information.

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

  • You’re adopting a child 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. Some forms may not display properly in your browser. Please download the forms and open them using Acrobat reader. Please see What to do if you can't open court PDFs for more information.

Fees   for Legally change the name of a child under 18

Local courts accept different types of payments (cash, check, credit card, etc.). Any checks should be made payable to: Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Call your court to find out which methods of payment are accepted in that location.

If you can’t pay the filing fee, you can ask to have the fee 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 wants 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   Legally 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.

You may submit your required forms for a name change to the Probate and Family Court in the county where you live.

You can eFile a Change of Name online at eFileMA. For more information on how to eFile, please see eFiling in the Probate and Family Court.

Next steps   for Legally 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 child who is 12 or older. You need to give public notice of the petition by publishing it. The court will send you the citation for publication.

    Only one (1) citation will issue if you have more than 1 child changing their name. These children have the same legal parents and guardian. The citation gets published in the local newspaper. The citation also gets served according to the order and notice. The mailing must be by certified mail, return receipt requested.

  2. Serve the papers on the necessary parties

    A citation gets served to any legal parent or guardian who has not approved the petition. This gets done by serving a copy of the petition by mail, return receipt requested. See Service of Process in the Courts for more information.

    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 following to the court: 

    • The original citation with a clipping of the notice from the newspaper 
    • The green return receipt postcard 
    • Your signature certifying that you mailed and published the notice

    If you have a good reason that the notice for the name change should not get published, you can file a motion to waive publication. You must file an affidavit (a sworn statement) with the motion. This is to help explain why you don’t want the notice published. You may have to go before a judge to present your reasons.

More info   for Legally change the name of a child under 18

Your case will be heard in the order it was received and the back log of the court you filed in. Not all cases need to go before a judge. Once the citation is returned and service made, your case gets sent to the Judge for review. 

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 gets allowed, the court will issue you a decree of change of name. You can request a certificate for a fee.

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