Massachusetts law about name changes

Laws, cases, and web sources on name change law.

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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, and eFiling.

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. 46, § 13 Correction of records 
If the record doesn’t contain all the required facts or it is claimed that the facts aren’t correctly stated, the person required to provide information for the original record or someone with credible knowledge of the case should provide an affidavit with the missing or corrected facts required and documentary evidence confirming the facts beyond reasonable doubt to the town clerk or state registrar.

MGL c. 51, § 2 Name of registered voter changed
A registered voter who adopts a new name will continue to be registered in their former name until June 1st of the following year, after which they will be registered with the new name. If the voter appears in person before the close of registration for any preliminary, primary or election to give notice of their new name, the registrars will correct the current annual register so the voter is registered in their new name.

MGL c. 208, § 23 Resumption of former name by woman  
"The court granting a divorce may allow a woman to resume her maiden name or that of a former husband."

MGL c. 210, § 6 Decree of court; force and effect; private hearings
Regarding the name change of an adopted child.

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 of name 
Requires each register of probate to provide an annual list of name changes.

Court rules

Selected cases

Gomes v. Candido, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 825 (2021)
When deciding whether to approve a change to a child's name, the standard should be whether the change is in the best interests of the child, not whether it will cause the child harm. 

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.


Court forms

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

Other forms

Social Security SS-5, Social Security Administration.
Use to obtain a card in your new name, replacement card or change or correct information on your record.

Massachusetts gender designation change form, Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Use this form to change gender on your license.

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.

Changing legal name, birth certificate and driver's license in Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Stonewall Center.
Discusses how to: receive a legal name change in Massachusetts, change the name and/or gender on Massachusetts driver's licenses, and change the gender on a Massachusetts birth certificate.

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.

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).

Cause of action for legal change of gender, 24 COA2d 135.
Available through the Trial Court Law Libraries' document delivery service.

Cause of action for legal change of name, 92 COA2d 113. 
Available through the Trial Court Law Libraries' document delivery service.

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

Circumstances justifying grant or denial of petition to change transsexual or transgender individual’s name, 39 ALR7th Art. 9. 
Available through the Trial Court Law Libraries' document delivery service.

Change of gender or sex on government ID, records, or forms, 77 ALR7th Art. 2. 
Available through the Trial Court Law Libraries' document delivery service.

Fiduciary litigation in the Probate Court, 5th ed., MCLE, 2021. Chapter 12. Parentage, Section 12.9 Change of Name and Paternity Actions.

Massachusetts domestic relations, 5th ed., LexisNexis, loose-leaf, Chapter 23. Children Born Out of Wedlock, Part F Judgments. Section 23.44 Procedures for Changing Birth Certificate as Part of Paternity Judgment; Part S. Change of Name of Children Born Out of Wedlock. Section 23.107 Standard; Determining the Child's Best Interest, Section 23.108 Factors Determining the Child's Best Interest; Part T Forms. Form 23:15 Form R-209C: Order to Amend Birth Certificate Pursuant to Paternity Ruling and Form 23:16 Change of Name(s).

Massachusetts Practice:

Paternity and the law of parentage in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, 2018. Chapter 3: Naming Nonmarital Children: Birth Certificates and Name Change Petitions.  

Transgender persons and the law, 2nd ed., ABA, 2015. Chapter 2: “Identification Documents."

Transgender persons & the law, MCLE, 2016.  “Change Your Legal Name,” pp. 48-50. 

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Last updated: July 8, 2024

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