Changing your name

To change your name in Maine, you will have to file a "Change of Name" petition with the Probate Court in the county where you live.

Each county in Maine has its own Probate Court, which is run by the county. Since these courts are run by the counties, and not by the state, the process for changing your name will be a little different in each county.

This guide will explain the general process, and try to answer some of the most common questions about this issue. We have done our best to break down some of the most important details for each county, and you can learn more about the process in the county you live in by clicking on the name of that county below.

If you live in New England, you may be able to get free legal representation through the GLAD Pop-Up ID Project. From GLAD: "Transgender people living in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont) seeking to update their legal name and gender on federal and state documents can receive free legal representation through this rapid-response program."

The Basics

Which Probate Court do I go to if I want to change my name?

You will need to "file" – give to the Court – a "Change of Name" petition with your local Probate Court. This will be the court in the county where you live now. Look up your local Probate Court here.

Do I have to be on hormones or have had surgery to get my name changed?

No. To change your name in Maine you don't need to be on hormones, have had any kind of surgery, or even have a letter from a doctor. People change their names for a lot of different reasons, there aren't any extra requirements if you're trans or gender non-conforming.

What forms do I need, and where can I get them?

For a name change in Maine, the basic form you will need is CN-1 Petition for Change of Name(Adult). Most Probate Courts also have another form, called an "affidavit." You will need to have the affidavit "notarized" – this means a notary public will have to watch you sign the affidavit, see some proof of your identity (like a driver's license or other government issued photo ID), and also sign the affidavit. Notaries are often available at town offices, banks, and the courts. They usually only charge a small fee, or no fee at all.

You can get all of these forms at your county Probate Court for a small fee ($1- $5). You may also print them from our website – but be aware that forms sometimes change, and the Court may ask you to use a form you get from them.

What else should I bring?

You should bring:

  • a current, government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license or passport

Some courts will ask for proof that you live in the county where the Probate Court is located - your photo ID would work for this. If you don't have an ID, another kind of document, like a utility bill in your name, a voter registration card, or a bank statement may be accepted to prove where you live.

Some courts also require you to bring a certified copy of your birth certificate. This should be a recent copy, one that you got within the last 6 months. We have tried to include information on which counties require this, but to be sure, you should call your local Probate Court and ask whether or not you need to bring this to file for your name change.

 

 

 

What does this process look like?

It really does depend on which court you are in. Here are some of the most important things to know about this process, in general. Once you have read this, click on your county below to learn more about the particulars of how name changes are handled in that court.

 

Hide Fees

Name changes can be expensive. All courts charge a $60 filing fee. They also have additional charges for publication (see below), certificate(s) of name change, and for the forms themselves. Whether or not these fees can be waived (the Court will allow you not to pay them if you can’t afford to pay) also depends on the court. Even if the fees can be waived, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to waive these fees.

 

 
Hide Publication and Notice

Maine requires (in most cases) that when someone changes their name, that change be published in local newspapers.

What if having my name changed published wouldn't be safe for me?

One exception to this requirement is if you are a survivor of domestic violence. If this is your situation, and you need the Court to not publish your name change in the papers, or give notice to your spouse, you will need to prove that:

  • You are a survivor of domestic violence
  • You reasonably fear for your safety

You may be able to do this by bringing a Protection from Abuse Order to the Court.

If you are in a relationship with domestic violence, we recommend that you contact your local domestic violence (link is external) program: 1-866-83-4HELP(44357).

For more information on protection from abuse orders visit our other resources.

Another possible situation where the court could allow you to change your name without having it published would be if you fear discrimination based on the fact that you are trans and/or gender non-conforming. If you are concerned about this, you should try to talk with a lawyer if you can afford one. If you aren't able to afford a lawyer, you should call the GLAD Legal Helpline. They may be able to direct you to other information or resources in your area.

Notice to your spouse

If you are married some courts may require your spouse to get notice. This notice may be waived by your spouse by signing the probate form N-107 (link is external). Some courts may have a specific form for your spouse to sign so the Court knows your spouse is aware of the name change. Again, check with the Probate Court in the county where you live.

Note: The interactive version of this form N-107 is posted at maineprobate.net (link is external); our "N-107" link takes you there.

 

 
Hide Background Check

Maine law allows the Judge to order a background check for a person who is changing their name. In practice, they don't usually do this, except in York county (read more about the process in York county below, by clicking to expand that section). A court ordered background check is a possibility, but it is actually very rare.

Typically, a background check would consist of running your legal name through an online database to check for any past criminal convictions. Again, in all counties except York county, background checks are not normally done for name changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hide Amending your birth certificate

 

When you change your name, you have the option of amending your birth certificate at the same time. Many courts are used to doing these things all at the same time, and the process is more streamlined than if you decide later that you want to amend your birth certificate.

Note: It isn't required that you change the name on your birth certificate when you legally change your name – there is an extra fee to do this, and you don't have to do it if you don't want to, or can't afford it. Changing your name on your birth certificate will not automatically change the gender marker on your birth certificate. Visit "Amending your birth certificate" for more information on this process, and what to expect from your amended birth certificate.

If you do want to amend your birth certificate when you change your name, let the clerk know you would also like to amend your birth certificate when you get your name change forms. You will need to pay an extra fee of $60. You can only pay this fee by check, payable to "Treasurer, State of Maine." You will give your birth certificate and the check to the Probate Court, and when your name is changed, they will automatically send your check as a form documenting you legal name change to the Vital Records Office.

After this, the Office of Vital Records will send you an amended birth certificate, along with the original form (called a VS-14) from the Probate Court noting your legal name change.

 

 

What to expect in each county

Click on your county below to learn more about:

  • fees
  • fee waivers
  • publication
  • background checks
  • additional documents to bring

Disclaimer: Information about fees and court processes could change. These courts are run on a county level, and we may not get notice of any changes. These county specific details are accurate as of 11/14/2016

 

Hide Androscoggin

Fees: $80 total, plus an additional $1 - $2 for the court forms.

Fee waiver: There is no fee waiver available for name changes.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Sun Journal.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Aroostook

Fees: $86, including forms and publication

Fee waiver: Can be requested at the Court. But only the $40 filing fee can be waived, not the fee for publication.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Houlton Pioneer Times (if you live in Mars Hills or South of Mars Hills) or the Aroostook Republican (if you live North of Mars Hills).

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Cumberland

Fees: $80 total, which includes the $40 filing fee, $30 publication fee, $5 for the name change petition and $5 for the name change affidavit.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Portland Press Herald.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Franklin

Fees: $81, which includes publication and the cost of the forms.

Fee waiver: Can be requested at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Franklin Journal.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Hancock

Fees: $110, which includes publication, but does not include the cost of the forms, which are $1 each.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Ellsworth American.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Kennebec

Fees: $95, which does not include the cost of the forms.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Kennebec Journal.

Background check: Not usually performed.

Birth Certificate: You will need to bring a certified copy of your birth certificate to file for your name change.

 

 
Hide Knox

Fees: $70, plus $1 per form.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Courier Gazette.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Lincoln

Fees: $70

Fee waiver: There is a form that can be requested at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Lincoln County News

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Oxford

Fees: $85, plus $2 - $3 for forms.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in The Advertiser.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Penobscot

Fees: $121, including forms.

Fee waiver: Can be requested at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Bangor Daily News.

Background check: Not usually performed.

Birth certificate: You will need to bring a certified copy of your birth certificate, which you got within the last six months, to file for your name change.

 

 
Hide Piscataquis

Fees: $122, including forms

Fee waiver: Can be requested at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Piscataquis Observer.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Sagadahoc

Fees: $70

Fee waiver: Sagadahoc County uses the standard court form and criteria for an “indigency affidavit.” Go here to learn more about this process, and to get the forms you will need.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Times Record.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Somerset

Fees: $76, including court forms.

Fee waiver: Application available at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Town Line.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Waldo

Fees: $82, including forms.

Fee waiver: No fee waiver available, but if you cannot afford the fees, there is a possibility that you can fill out a form about your financial situation, and meet with the Judge to set up a payment plan.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Republican Journal.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide Washington

Fees: $77, including forms.

Fee waiver: Available at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the Machias Valley.

Background check: Not usually performed.

 

 
Hide York

Fees: $105, which does not include the fees for the forms.

Fee waiver: A fee waiver form is available at the Court.

Publication: The fee covers publication. The Court will publish a notice of your name change in the local paper in the area where you live.

Background check: Background checks are always performed, but you will not have to pay for this background check. Ask at the York County Probate Court for more information on what this process involves.

 

 

Filling out the forms

Once you have the forms, you will need to fill them out. There are two basic forms.

 

Hide Petition for Change of Name

This is the form you use to ask the Court to change your legal name. Here are some important things to know:

  • You are the “petitioner,” because you are asking (petitioning) the Court to change your name.

  • You don’t have to fill in the attorney information if you are doing this on your own.

  • You don’t need to worry about filling out the “docket number” - the Court will take care of that.

  • Where the form asks the reason you want to change your name, there isn’t a wrong answer. The Court doesn’t have an approved set of reasons for a person to change their name. People change their names for many reasons, sometimes just because they don’t like their name.

Here are some examples of language you could use if you are having a hard time phrasing why you want to change your name:

  • “I am transgender. I want to change my name to better reflect my identity.”
  • “I do not feel that my current name fits my identity. I want to change my name to fit better with who I am.”
  • “I want to change my name because it does not match who I am or how I want people to see me.”
  • “Changing my legal name is an important step in my transition. I want my legal name to fit my gender identity.”
  • “I do not feel safe or comfortable with my current legal name. I want to change my name so that it will match how I feel and how I present myself.”

Remember, there are no wrong answers to this question. Just explain (it doesn’t have to be a long explanation, or in “legal” language) why you want to change your name.

 

 
Hide Affidavit

The affidavit is another form you will need to fill out. It may be different depending on which court you are in. Basically, the affidavit is a way for the Court to make sure that you aren’t changing your name for an illegal reason, like trying to avoid someone you owe money to, or to get away from criminal charges. By filling out the affidavit, you are swearing that this is not why you are changing your name.

To complete the affidavit, you will have to have it “notarized.” This means that you will need to sign the form in front of a notary public. They will check your ID, witness you signing the affidavit, and then sign it themselves. Sometimes notaries are available at town offices, banks, or at the courthouse. Most notaries charge a small fee, or no fee at all.

If you get stuck filling out these forms, it’s ok to ask for help! The staff at the Probate Court are there to help people. If you feel comfortable talking with them, they can help you figure out how to fill out the forms and file them with the Court.

 

 

Filing the forms

Once you fill out the forms, you can give them to the clerk at the Probate Court. If you aren't sure who to give the forms to, you can ask one of the staff at the courthouse.

You will need to pay the fees when you file the forms with the Court.

What happens once the fees are paid and papers are filed?

The Petition and supporting documents are recorded by the Court on the "docket."  Docket is just a term for the way the courts keep track of their schedule of cases. A date, called a "return date" will be assigned to your case. The return date is the date that will be published in the newspaper and is the date that goes on any required notice.

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.

In some courts the return date is used as the last date a person can file a written objection.  Once the written objection is filed, the Court will set a different date for a contested hearing.

Next, the Petition is published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the petition is filed. You can click on your county above to find out which newspaper that court usually uses.

A note on objections

People don't usually object to name changes unless the person changing their name owes them money. That is really one of the only reasons the Probate Court might deny a name change if someone objects.

Even though this is the case, discrimination - from community or family members - is a possibility. If someone is objecting to your name change because they just don't agree with what you are doing, or because they are trying to embarrass or harass you, call the GLAD Legal Helpline.

As terrible as this situation might be, remember that the Court should not reject your name change based on these kinds of objections.

Do I need to come to the hearing?

Some courts require you to come to the hearing. Others don't. You will need to ask the Probate Office in the county where you reside whether or not you need to go to the hearing.

If the name change petition is contested (if someone objects) you will need to go to the hearing and present testimony to the Judge of Probate. Again, this is not something that usually happens.

What next?

If your name change is approved by the Judge, the probate court will mail you a Certificate of Name Change (this is important, it's official proof of your name change!). You can start using your new legal name on official documents, and you can start the process of having your legal name reflected on your ID documents. You can read more about these processes in the next steps of this guide.