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How To Change Your Name and Gender Marker in Massachusetts

Massachusetts gives its residents the right to change their names. Historically, you could freely assume a new name in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts if the change was for an honest purpose. But the needs of modern life have changed.

Some proof of a name change is necessary to update your driver's license, Social Security card, and other records. Today, how to change your name in Massachusetts is a more complicated process, depending on your case and circumstances.

This article addresses how to change your name in the event of marriage, divorce, or for any other reason. The article also covers filing the appropriate paperwork with other government agencies once you've changed your name. Finally, the article addresses changing your gender marker on crucial legal documents. This can be especially important if you're transgender and going through a gender change process.

Identify and Follow the Correct Massachusetts Legal Name Change Process

The reason for your name change determines the process you'll need to follow to accomplish your goal.

Marriage

The main reason most people change their names is due to marriage. Massachusetts law lets you adopt any surname (last name) when getting married. This can be accomplished simply by filling out an application for a marriage license and listing your new name.

Once the marriage license is issued, it serves as proof of a name change. Get a few copies of your marriage license since you'll need copies for the paperwork that lies ahead.

Divorce

Fortunately, if your marriage doesn't last, changing your name can be achieved during the normal divorce process in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts allows a family court handling a divorce to change the divorcing wife's last name back to her former name. But it's limited to that – you can't ask for a new name or changes to your first, middle, or other names. The court can include the name change in the final decree of divorce. The divorce decree then becomes proof of your legal name change.

Petition for a Change of Name

Suppose you're changing your name for a reason other than marriage or divorce, such as due to a gender transition. In that case, Massachusetts has a petition for a change of name process. While the process is pretty straightforward, there are some steps involved. You can expect to:

  • Fill out a name change petition
  • Get a copy of your birth record
  • File the petition and birth record with a local court
  • Await the results of a criminal records check
  • Publish a notice in a newspaper
  • Possibly attend a probate court hearing

There are some restrictions when changing your name. While Massachusetts gives you the right to change your name, a court can refuse if the "change is inconsistent with public interests." This encompasses name changes sought:

  • For fraudulent or illegal purposes
  • To avoid lawsuits and debts
  • To jeopardize public safety

If the court grants your petition, it will enter a decree making your name change legal. A court order will be sent or given to you afterward. This name change decree becomes proof of your legal name change. It's a good idea to get several certified copies to submit to other agencies as proof of your name change.

File the Appropriate Paperwork With Other Government Agencies

Once you've gone through one of the processes outlined above, you still have more steps to take to change your name on other identity documents. You'll need to take your marriage license, divorce decree, or court-issued name change certificate to your local Social Security office to get your Social Security card updated. This is an essential first step in updating the rest of your ID documents.

The good news is that if you're changing your gender marker, you can make that change at the same time. All you need to do is indicate your preferred gender on your application for a new Social Security card.

Another critical step in your name change journey is to change your driver's license or state ID card to reflect your new name. You'll need to make an in-person appointment at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and fill out an application for a new driver's license indicating a change of information.

If you're changing your gender marker, you can do that at the same time. Your gender designation options for your Massachusetts license are "M," "F," or "X." You might choose "X" if you identify as non-binary, for instance.

Changing Your Gender Marker

Beyond the gender marker changes already mentioned, you may want to change the gender marker on your Massachusetts birth certificate. If so, you'll need to provide a notarized statement from your doctor indicating that you've had medical intervention to reassign your gender permanently. You'll also need to submit an affidavit indicating your correct sex and name.

You'll then send your physician's statement and your applicant affidavit, along with a filing fee, to the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS). If you're changing your name on your birth certificate at the same time, you'll also need to submit a copy of your legal name change document. The RVRS will then mail out an amended birth certificate reflecting your updated information.

Get the Legal Help You Need in Massachusetts

A change of name can be a tall order, but you don't need to do it alone. If you're finding the process overwhelming, contact a Massachusetts attorney today. Whether you live in Boston or another part of the state, you'll be glad to have support in navigating all of the paperwork.

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