Massachusetts law about name changes

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on name change law by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Name changes, Mass. Trial Court.
Explains the process of changing your name in Massachusetts, including forms, fees, and what to expect.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.46, § 1D Adoption of surname upon marriage
"Each party to a marriage may adopt any surname, including but not limited to the present or birth-given surname of either party, may retain or resume use of a present or birth-given surname, or may adopt any hyphenated combination thereof."

MGL c.210, § 12 Petitions for change of name
"The change of name of a person shall be granted unless such change is inconsistent with public interests."

MGL c.210, § 13 Notice and certificate; decree; entry; conditions precedent
Requires public notice of the petition to change your name

MGL c.210, § 14 Annual return of changes
Requires each register of probate to provide an annual list of name changes

Selected case law

Merolevitz, Petitioner, 320 Mass. 448 (1946)
"It is well settled that at common law a person may change his name at will, without resort to legal proceedings, by merely adopting another name, provided that this is done for an honest purpose."

Petition of Two Minors for Change of Name, 65 Mass. App. Ct. 850 (2006)
Case provides a clear summary of the reasoning for allowing or denying a change of name of children in a divorce situation.

Secretary of the Commonwealth v. City Clerk of Lowell, 373 Mass. 178 (1977)
Case deals with choice of name primarily for out of wedlock children, but also affirms the right of a woman to change her name by common law.

Web sources

Change of name: family law advocacy for low and moderate income litigants, 3d ed., 2018, Chapter 15. Mass. Legal Services
Covers petitions for name change and special issues regarding children's names.

Change your name on your passport, US State Dept.
Learn how to correct or update your U.S. passport due to a name change

District Court model jury instruction 7.300 Giving false name upon arrest
"The law permits a person to change his (her) name at will, without resort to legal proceedings, merely by adopting another name, as long as he (she) is not using that name for a dishonest purpose."

How do I change or correct my name on my Social Security number card?, Social Security Administration
"If you legally change your name because of marriage, divorce, court order or any other reason, you must tell Social Security so you can get a corrected card. You cannot apply for a card online. There is no charge for a Social Security card. This service is free." Explains what documents you will need to provide.

How to Get Married in Massachusetts: How do I change my surname?, GLAD
Describes the process and benefits of changing your name when applying for a marriage license

Names and Name Changes (for children), Neighborhood Legal Services
"This booklet is designed to answer some of the questions you may have about your rights regarding naming your children, recording your children's names, changing your name, or changing your children's names."

Print sources

Beth D. Cohen, A Name of One’s Own: The Spousal Permission Requirement and the Persistence of Patriarchy, 46 Suffolk University Law Review 1 (2013).

"Child Naming Disputes," Massachusetts Family Law Journal Vol. 24 #4 (August-September 2006) p.81-98

Family Law and Practice, Mass. Practice Series v.2A, Thomson West, with supplement, Chapter 84, "Change of Name Proceedings."

Transgender Persons and the Law, ABA, 2015. Chapter 2: “Identification Documents." 

Transgender Persons and the Law, MCLE, 2015. pp.48-50: Change Your Legal Name.

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Last updated: May 21, 2019
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