Massachusetts gives residents the right to change their name. Historically, the common law allowed anyone to freely assume a new name if done for an honest purpose. But the needs of modern life have grown. 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. In this article, we'll cover how to:
- Identify the right process for you;
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed; and
- Start using your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Massachusetts Legal Name Change Process
Most name changes happen during marriage. Since it's been happening for hundreds of years already, the Bay State has it down. 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. Be sure to get a few copies, because you'll need them for the paperwork that lies ahead.
Remember that name change from getting married? Well, if the marriage isn't working out then the new last name might not be working out either. Fortunately changing it back can be done during the normal divorce process.
Massachusetts allows a court handling a divorce to a change someone's last name back to a 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.
Petition for a Change of Name
For everyone else, there's Massachusetts's petition for a change of name process. While the Bay State's process is actually pretty easy compared to other states, there are some steps involved. You can expect to:
- Fill out a 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 notice in a newspaper; and
- Possibly attend a court hearing.
And there are some restrictions. While the Old Colony State gives people the right to change their name, a court can refuse if the 'change is inconsistent with public interests.' That's a broad brush, but name changes sought for fraudulent or illegal purposes, to avoid lawsuits and debts, or that jeopardize public safety fall into that category.
If the court grants your petition, it will enter a decree making it legal. A certificate will be sent or given to you afterward. Hold onto that, as it is proof of your legal name change.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
You still have some i's to dot and t's to cross. Take that marriage license, divorce decree, or court-issued name change certificate and contact a local Social Security office to get your Social Security Card up to date. This is an important first step in updating the rest of your records. Once that's done, get in touch with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) about updating your driver's license and vehicle registration. A name change must be reported to the RMV within thirty days.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once you've got it, start using it! Let family, friends, and others know about your name change. Employers, banks, businesses, and insurance companies should be informed as well, and be sure to update your email and social media profiles. Making your name change known will make everything easier in the long run and avoid any potential problems.
Get the Forms You Need in Massachusetts
A change of name can be a tall order, but you don't need to go it alone. Nor do you need to spend a lot of money on an expensive attorney. Our Massachusetts name change forms can save you the trouble of figuring out all the paperwork. From Boston to Springfield, we’ve done the research to make sure you’re following Massachusetts protocol.