Changing a Child’s last name is a significant decision and can arise for various reasons, such as divorce, remarriage, or personal preferences. In the state of Massachusetts, the legal process for changing a child’s last name is well-defined, but it requires careful consideration and adherence to specific procedures. In this blog, we’ll provide an overview of how to change a child’s last name in Massachusetts, including the legal requirements, steps to follow, and important considerations.

Understand the Legal Requirements

Before proceeding with a name change for your child, it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements in Massachusetts. Generally, name changes for minors fall under the jurisdiction of the Probate and Family Court, and there are specific criteria that must be met:

  1. Consent: Both parents with legal custody of the child typically need to consent to the name change. If one parent is unavailable or refuses consent, you may need to provide the court with a valid reason why the change is in the child’s best interest.
  2. Best Interests of the Child: Massachusetts courts prioritize the best interests of the child when considering name changes. You must demonstrate that changing the child’s last name serves their best interests, and it’s not being done for fraudulent or malicious reasons.
  3. Notification: You may need to notify other interested parties, such as the child’s other legal parent, about the name change petition. This allows them the opportunity to object or express concerns to the court.

Gather Required Documents

To initiate the name, change process in Massachusetts, you’ll need to gather certain documents and forms:

  1. Petition for Change of Name: Obtain and complete the Petition for Change of Name of a Minor form, available on the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court’s website.
  2. Affidavit: Prepare an affidavit outlining the reasons for the name change and how it benefits the child.
  3. Consent Form: If the other parent consents to the name change, they should complete and sign the Consent to Change of Name of Minor form.
  4. Notice of Hearing: Fill out a Notice of Hearing form to inform the court of the date and time of the hearing on the name change petition.
  5. Filing Fee: Be prepared to pay a filing fee, which can vary depending on the county in Massachusetts where you file the petition. Fee waivers may be available for those who qualify.

File the Petition

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary documents, you’ll need to file them with the Probate and Family Court in the appropriate county. Be sure to make copies of all documents for your records.

After filing the petition, the court will schedule a hearing to review your request. Both parents and any other interested parties will have the opportunity to present their case. The court will consider the child’s best interests and any objections raised during the hearing.

After the hearing, the court will make a decision regarding the name change petition. If the court approves the name change, you will receive an official court order. Make sure to obtain multiple certified copies of this order, as you may need them to change the child’s name on official documents like their birth certificate, Social Security card, and school records.

Changing a child’s last name in Massachusetts is a well-regulated process that requires careful consideration and adherence to legal requirements. It’s important to prioritize the child’s best interests and ensure that all necessary documentation is completed accurately. Consulting with an attorney experienced in family law can also provide valuable guidance throughout this

process. Remember that each case is unique, and outcomes may vary, so be prepared to follow the court’s decision and update official documents accordingly.

What if one parent doesn’t want the name change?

Under G.L. c. 210, §12, a person may file a name change petition, and typically, the petition “shall be granted unless such a change is inconsistent with public interests” However, where the petition concerns the surname of a child, “whether born to married or unmarried parents, the ‘best interests’ of the child standard is applicable.” Cormier v. Quist, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 914, 915 (2010), quoting Petition Of Two Minors For Change Of Name,  65 Mass App Ct. 850, 856, (2006). The Petitioner bears the affirmative burden of demonstrating and coming forward with evidence that the name change requested is in the child’s best interest and is beneficial. See Gomez v. Candido, 99 Mass App. Ct. 825, 829, 2021.