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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are there restrictions on what I can name my baby?

Although a recent LegalBlogWatch.com article discusses the limitations that some states place on baby names, in Massachusetts there are no restrictions in the general laws that limit parents' rights to name their child.

M.G.L. c. 46 s 1 prohibits the recording of a father's information in the birth record of a child of unwed parents "except as provided in section 2 of chapter 209C where paternity has been acknowledged or adjudicated under the laws of the commonwealth or under the law of any other jurisdiction." This does not, however, restrict the right of the Mother to use the Father's surname, only restricts her ability to list him as the Father without his agreement.

There may be administrative limitations such as limiting the full name to 40 characters for recording in the Massachusetts electronic data system (as reported in a law review article, Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights). It is also likely that administrative officials might refuse to record names that contain obscenities or ideograms. The above referenced law review article discusses the constitutionality of such restrictions.

In the event parents disagree about the name of a child, the court may also become involved. MassLegalServices.org provides information about Petitions for Name Change including a summary of what happens when parents disagree. The short version is that the court will decide what name is in the child's bester interest taking into account factors such as the length of time the child has used a previous name, the age of the child, and any potential difficulties or embarrassment a current or proposed name may present.

3 comments:

  1. You can name it your baby as long as the name is appropriate in the norms and culture of your society. Good and nice name must be.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. A friend posted a thoughtful comment on our Facebook account in response to this blog. We have reposted portions of it here for the benefit of our readers:

    There are two different issues, really, and they aren't to be confused. "What to name my baby" for most people involves first/middle names. That's almost entirely up to the mother. Short of some crazy outlying issues, father would have no say at all on the first name.

    Family names are trickier, particularly if there's a question of paternity.

    The initial "naming" issue going into court would virtually never touch on first name, only last (generally only for family name, and even then generally only if there's a paternity issue). The links are a tiny bit off on that distinction (likely because that's about the only time father would have any leg to stand on). But people could read it and misunderstand that both parents have to agree on the first name, which is incorrect. They would, though have to agree on a name *change* after the fact, and if they didn't then the "Best interest" part would come in (outside of extremely outrageous circumstances - any of which I can't come up with off the top of my head).

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