Introduction to Minor Name Changes in Maine
To change your name, or the name of a minor in your care, you will usually need to file a petition with the Probate Court in the county where you live. There are some special procedures for changing your name if you are under 18 years old.
We will cover this process here, but every Probate Court in Maine is independent and may do things differently from each other. We suggest that you call the Probate Court in your county before filing so you can confirm their specific requirements.
Note about name changes for minors: In 2016, Maine passed the Home Court Act. This law is meant to prevent more than one case about the same child from happening in different courts. Cases about a name change for a minor can now be heard in either Probate or District Court. Courts use a Jurisdictional Affidavit to find out about all of the cases involving a child, and to figure out which court has the power to make a decision about guardianship. They do this to make sure they are following the Act. You will need to file a Jurisdictional Affidavit. Learn more about this in our new guide: Adoption, Guardianship of a Minor, Child Name Change and Maine's Home Court Act: When, where and how to file the Jurisdictional Affidavit
What do I need to file with the Probate Court?
To change your name in Maine, you will need to file some forms with your County Probate Court. Here are some things you should know first:
- You will also need to pay a fee to the court. If you can’t afford the cost, you can file a form called a ‘fee waiver.’ More on this below.
- The forms you will need may depend on your situation, and what your County Probate Court requires. It is always a good idea to call your local Probate Court before you file, to make sure you have all the forms and documents you will need.
- There are separate forms for adult and minor name changes. In this article, we cover the forms and process for a name change for a minor. If you are an adult who wants to change their name (or gender marker) please see our guide for adults: How to change your name and gender marker in Maine.
Maine Minor Name Change Forms
If you are a minor, your parents or guardians will need to file for you. The only exception is if you are an emancipated minor, or are seeking to be emancipated. Learn more about emancipation of minors in Maine.
Minors can usually get their names changed at county Probate Court, but it is possible your parent/guardian will need to file in District Court. Call us if you need help figuring that out! Your parents or guardians will need these documents:
- Name Change Petition for Minor (Form NC-001)
- Jurisdictional Affidavit (Form AF-101)
- Filing Fee (should be $40) or a fee waiver request (AF-105)
- Certified copy of your Birth Certificate
- Additional documents may be required or helpful, like:
- Any court orders having to do with your parents/guardians' rights and responsibilities over you (examples: Custody or Guardianship orders; divorce decrees)
- Form VS-14, if you want your name to be changed on your birth certificate automatically
Who may petition for a minor's name change?
A parent or guardian may petition to change a minor’s name.
When parents or guardians are filing, it is easiest when both sign the petition together. But, starting in the Fall of 2021, it is possible for one parent or guardian to petition without the signature or agreement from the other parent/guardian. But, both parents (or legal guardians) must usually be given notice (more on this below).
It is also possible for a minor to request a name change during emancipation proceedings, or file for their own name change if they are already emancipated.
What are the notice requirements for changing the name of a minor?
Publication is not required
Good news! Unlike the process for adults, minors are NOT required to publish notice of their name change in a newspaper.
Notice to other parents or guardians is required
Parents and legal guardians are entitled to notice of the name change petition. Other parties might also be entitled to notice, including a guardian ad litem or a state agency with custody of the minor. If the other parent or guardian disagrees with the name change, they have a right to show up to the hearing and explain their side.
The parent or guardian who is petitioning for you will need to make sure the non-petitioning parent is notified. The non-petitioning parent can waive their right to notice by signing the form N-107. Otherwise, the probate clerk has the notice forms and can tell you how the notice should be served on the other parent. It may be by certified/restricted mail, or personal service by sheriff - check with the probate clerk in your county.
What if it isn’t safe to notify the other parent?
If you are worried about your safety or the safety of the child, you can request an exception to the notice requirement. Please reach out to us or contact the Probate Clerk if you have questions or want to explore this further.
What if I do not know where the other parent is? How can I give notice?
If you need to give notice to the other parent, but do not know where they are, the Judge may require:
- a special publication notice,
- checking with the 5 branches of the military, and
- filing an ‘affidavit of diligent search’ (a document showing what you have done to locate the missing parent).
What if I do not know the name of the other parent?
If the name of the other parent is unknown, the Judge of Probate may ask to have a conference with the parent filing for the name change to decide how to give notice.
What do I need to show that the other parent was given notice?
It depends on how the non-petitioning parent was given notice. We recommend calling the clerk to check how they do this. It is possible they will serve the other parent with the notice for you, and you will not need to do anything.
- If the notice was delivered by ‘personal service by sheriff,’ you may get a form from the sheriff's office once they have served the other parent. You should save the form and file it with the probate court.
- If notice is served by certified, restricted delivery mail, you may need to complete an ‘affidavit of service’ (Get a sample affidavit of mail service here). You would attach a copy of the notice served along with the green return receipt card from the post office.
Again, if it is the practice of the court to prepare and serve the notice, the court will be responsible for proof of service and you will not need to do anything. It is always best to call your county Probate Court to check.
What happens if the parent who gets notice does nothing?
If the parent getting the notice objects to the name change, they must appear in court on the hearing date listed in the notice. They may file written objections with the court. But unless the court specifically orders it, written objections are not a substitute for going to the hearing. The parent getting notice may hire an attorney to represent them.
If the parent getting notice does not respond, some courts require that person be ‘defaulted.’ That means the court will assume the parent does not object to the name change.
What happens once the fees are paid and papers are filed?
The Petition and supporting documents are recorded by the court on the ‘docket’ or court schedule. A ‘return date’ is assigned.
Possible Hearing: In some courts the return date is when you need to come to court for a hearing. If someone comes to court on that date to object to the name change the Judge may hear it on that date.
Some probate courts do not require a hearing. In this case, the 'return date’ is the last day someone could file an objection to the name change petition. Once this date passes, the judge will most likely approve the petition and issue the certificate of name change.
For minors, if there is a contested hearing (where the parents disagree) the Judge will consider ‘Best Interest factors’ to determine whether to grant the name change. This includes listening to the minor’s own preference and expressions of what they want, and harms caused by continuing to use their current legal name. If the minor is 14 years old or older, the Judge will probably want to hear from them directly and give weight to the minor’s expressed wishes.
Do I have to update my birth certificate, too? If I want to, how do I change a birth record to reflect the name change?
There is no legal requirement at this time for you to change your birth record. But, you may want to amend the birth record for your own peace of mind or just because you would prefer to do so.
If the birth took place in the State of Maine, the probate court can provide you with the form VS-14, Notification of Legal Change of Name. The probate court will forward this form to Vital Records in Augusta.
The fee for amending the birth record is currently $60.00. This fee is paid to the Treasurer, State of Maine. You will receive a new birth record directly from the Vital Records office.
If the birth took place outside the State of Maine you will need to contact the place of birth yourself to find out what is required of them to amend the birth record.
Note: If you are also considering changing your gender marker on your birth certificate, it may make sense to wait to file the VS-14 and instead update your name and gender marker on your birth certificate at the same time.
You will need to file your petition and all related documents with the probate court in the county where you live.
A hearing may be required depending on the circumstances of your particular petition. You will be notified of the time and date of hearing.