How To Legally Change Your Name In Massachusetts
Most people choose to change their last name in the case of marriage, divorce, or adoption. In the case of a name change, Massachusetts state laws allow a person to change it without reason, as long as they’re not doing it for fraudulent motives. And it’s not just limited to surnames- people can change their first names, middle names, last names as well.
Anybody who is above eighteen years of age and wants a name change, Massachusetts grants them the right to file a Change of Name petition and move forward with the proceedings. It’s a relatively inexpensive and straightforward process.
You can file a petition yourself or hire a family lawyer’s services to do it for you (it’s certainly less stressful). If you’re someone who likes to do things their own way, read on to find out how you can apply for a name change in Massachusetts.
Step 1: Fill Out Change of Name Petition
For matters dealing with a name change, Massachusetts laws grant jurisdiction powers to the Probate and Family Court.
For starters, you must first fill out the Petition to Change Name of Adult (CJP-27). In that, you will be asked to provide your current name, address, your proposed new name and a short explanation of why you want to change your name. You will need to sign this form in the presence of a notary public.
Step 2: Fill Out Release Request Form
Next, you must fill out the Court Activity Record Information and Warrant Management System Release Request Form (CJP 34). In this document, you must provide your current name, date of birth, the last 4 digits of your social security number, and your mother’s maiden name. If you have used any aliases in the past, be sure to mention them here.
Step 3: Gather Documents
Before filing their petition, make sure you have the following documents and forms lined up:
- Name petition form (CJP 27)
- A certified copy of your birth certificate
- Record of previous name change (if applicable)
- Record of marriage or divorce certificate(if applicable)
- A Court Activity Record Information and Warrant Management System Release Form (CJP 34)
Procuring these documents can be a long process. If you’ve hired a family lawyer, let them arrange these documents and save yourself the stress.
Step 4: File Name Change Petition At The Probate And Family Court
Once you have gathered all the documents, you can submit your documents and file your petition at your local Probate and Family Court. The court will request a criminal background check on you from the Commissioner.
You will need to pay a fee of $150 for the petition and an additional $15 surcharge for filing.
Not all counties in Massachusetts accept payment through credit cards or cheques, so it’s better to have cash handy or inquire with the county court in advance.
In cases where the petitioner cannot pay the filing fee, they may apply for a court waiver.
Step 5: Publish Notice Of Name Change
Any name change must be published in a local newspaper to allow public members to object to the name change. The court will send a Citation for Publication to the petitioner to be published in a local newspaper. The petitioner mail this to the local newspaper, who will then send a return receipt.
The publishing fees can cost up to $150, which must be borne by the petitioner. After publishing, the newspaper will send a clipping of the publication to the petitioner, which will have to be submitted to the court, along with the Citation of Publication, the return receipt, and the petitioner’s signature.
Step 6: Attend Hearing
In instances where someone has come forth with an objection to the name change, or the court finds reasonable concern with the name change, the petitioner will be asked to come in for a hearing. It’s better to hire a family lawyer to help you out in such an instance.
After the judge decides in favor of the name change, they will grant a name change decree. This order will serve as proof that the petitioner has legally changed their name.
Changing The Name Of A Minor
Changing the name of a minor is procedurally similar to an adult name change. Still, it will be scrutinized much more harshly by a judge. Most judges are reluctant to change a child’s last name unless there is a strong reason to do so, such as total abandonment by the parent whose name they carry.
A family lawyer understands the scenarios where judges are likely to give a favorable ruling.
For a parent to change their child’s name, it is necessary to have custody of the child. The parent who wishes to change the name must send a notification to the child’s other parent (if they do not live together). If you don’t know where the other parent is, you will have to issue a public notification about the name change in the newspaper.
Even if one parent is deceased, the courts might still not agree to a name change unless they feel it serves the child’s best interests, such as a case where the child’s identity is tied to the deceased parent.
As far as minors are concerned, a petition to change their names must be presented by a parent or a legal guardian. Since the child can not testify, the courts will mull over whether the child desires to do so, or a parent or guardian is imposing their will on the juvenile.
Due to the complicated nature and the numerous considerations in changing a minor’s name, it’s advisable to hire the services of a qualified family lawyer to plead your case before petitioning a court.
When Are You Exempt For Filing A Name Change In Court?
There are a few cases when you do not need to file a petition to change your name, and the authorities will do it themselves, such as:
When You Get Married
It depends on you whether you choose to keep your original name or change it after marriage. If you decide to change your name, include your new name in your marriage license. It will automatically be changed to the one listed on your certificate after your wedding.
Suppose you are thinking of a new last name for both the spouses after the marriage, such as a hyphenated or double-barrelled surname. In that case, you will need to file a petition for a name change.
When You Get Divorced
In the case of a divorce, if you want to revert to your legal name before your marriage, request it in your Complaint for Divorce (CJD-101), Joint Petition for Divorce form (CJD-101A), or Counterclaim for Divorce (CJD-202). Your name will be changed automatically after your divorce is finalized.
As A Naturalized Citizen
If you’re in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen, it’s possible to request the federal authorities to let you change your name. They usually comply with such requests and expedite the name-changing process for applicants.
Changing a name can be quite an arduous task. Judges need your paperwork to be clear and concise. If they feel in the slightest that you’re changing your name for some fraudulent reason, they’re sure to reject your petition right away.
Should you have any concerns, contact Attorney Mucci for a legal consultation