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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.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, § 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 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.

Forms

Information and court forms to change an adult's name

Information and court forms to change a child's name under age 18

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.

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 with forms, 4th ed. (Mass Practice v.2A) Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapter 82. Names, Marriage and Divorce, Section 82:1 Right of Married Persons to Use Name of Their Choice, Section 82:2 Right to Change Name on Divorce; Chapter 83. Children's Name, Section 83:1 Issues Relating to Parental Naming of Children; Chapter 84. Change of Name Proceedings, Sections 84:1 – 84:6.

Fiduciary litigation in the Probate Court, MCLE, 4th ed., 2019. Chapter 12. Parentage, Section 12.9 Change of Name and Paternity Actions

Massachusetts domestic relations, 5th ed., LexisNexis, looseleaf, 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).

Methods of practice with forms, 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v.5A) West Group, 2000 with supplement. Chapter 24. Change of Name, Sections 24:1 – 24: 25.

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

Prima facie case: Proof and defense, 5th ed. (Mass. Practice v.17B) West Pub., 2005 with supplement. Chapter 55. Divorces, Section 55:17 Resumption of Prior Name.

Real estate law with forms, annual (Mass. Practice v.28) Thomson Reuters. Chapter 5. Parties to Deeds, Section 5:3 Assumed Name.

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.

Contact

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Last updated: July 3, 2020
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