Deciding a child’s name:
Massachusetts parents can name their child any name that they choose. The city or town clerk
where the child was born records the child’s name as instructed by the parents.
The parents may give the child any first name and any last name that they wish.
The child’s last name may be the father’s last name, the mother’s last name, a
hyphenated version of both names, and any other name.
However, if married parents disagree upon what name to use, they may have to go
to court to resolve the dispute, and the child may end up with one parent’s surname
or a hyphenated version.
Where is my Child’s Name Recorded?
The city or town clerk is responsible for recording information regarding the
child’s birth, including the child’s name, the date and place of the birth, and the
name of the father and mother, onto a birth certificate. If the child is born in a
hospital, the information is generally reported by the doctor in charge. If the child
is born at home, you are responsible for notifying the town or city clerk within 30
days after the child’s birth.
How is my child’s name recorded?
The mother’s name is always recorded on the birth certificate. Whether the
father’s name is also recorded depends on the situation:
If the mother is UNMARRIED, the father’s name is not recorded on the
birth certificate UNLESS BOTH the mother and father request by affidavit
that his name be recorded as the father of the child.
If the parents are MARRIED, the husband’s name will be recorded on the
birth certificate as the father. The husband will be recorded as the father
even if he is not around and even if he is not the child’s biological father.
This is because any child born to a married couple is presumed by law to be
the biological child of the husband. HOWEVER:
***** If you are MARRIED and your husband is NOT the father*****
- If the husband’s whereabouts are known, both he and the mother may
sign affidavits available at Probate and Family Court that he is not the
father. Then the husband’s name is not recorded.
- If the husband’s whereabouts are unknown, and the mother signs an
affidavit stating that his whereabouts are unknown AND that he is not
the biological father, then the husband’s name will not be recorded.
The biological father may, if he wishes, also file an affidavit stating he is the
father. These affidavits are submitted to the court for approval. If your
request is approved, the husband’s name is not recorded and the biological
father’s name is recorded.
Correcting birth records to reflect the children’s biological
If the mother is unmarried or married to someone who is not the biological father,
paternity must be established in order to correct the birth records.
Paternity can be established when the biological father acknowledges
paternity, i.e. admitting that they are the biological father of the child.
Changing your children’s names:
You must have custody of your children if you want to file a name change on their
If you do not live with the child’s other parent, you must send a copy of the
petition to change the children’s names to the other parent by certified mail in
addition to publishing the notice in the paper. If you do not know that parent’s
current address, send the letter certified to the last known address. The post office
will return the letter to you if it cannot be delivered. DO NOT OPEN THE
RETURNED LETTER. File it with the court. If the other parent receives the
certified letter, the post office will return a green card to you. File the card with
If notifying the other parent will put the child’s safety at risk, you may petition the
court for permission to publish only the child’s current name and to withhold
publication of the new name. If you are changing your name and / or the child’s name
due to safety concerns, you should also consider changing your social security
Should you need assistance in changing your Massachusetts child’s name, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.