Frequently Asked Questions
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Access Policy for Massachusetts Vital Records MA General Law Chapter 46, Section 2A
Access to restricted birth and marriage records is limited by §2A, Chapter 46, MA General Law. For those persons with access to restricted records, proof of identity (a photo ID) is necessary, and in some cases additional documentation is also necessary. Access to persons other than those listed require a court order.
Birth - Certificates
I have custody of my grandchild. How do I get their birth certificate? A legal guardian of the child needs to present their original valid court order and show a valid ID, or an attorney can request the record on behalf of the child. See Access Policy for Massachusetts Vital Records for more information or contact the Registry.
Contact the Registry I legally changed my name in court. How do I change my birth certificate to that name? A legal name changes does not change the name on your birth certificate. Make sure you hold on to the Court papers for the legal name change because you may need to present both to renew your driver’s license, health insurance, or use it for other transactions. If your own birth record is restricted you will need your ID and the change of name court papers to access your birth certificate. I was adopted. How can I get a copy of my birth certificate? Your birth certificate after adoption is your legal certificate in Massachusetts and the only certified copy you can obtain. For additional information on access to pre-adoption birth records in Massachusetts, please see the State Vital Records website.
Birth – Records
Birth Records of a Person Born Out-of-Wedlock If the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth, then the record is restricted to the following and a valid ID is required:
- Subject of the record (child)
Note: you cannot bring a letter from someone saying you can access the record.
Name Changes & Additions
What if I want to add the father’s name to a birth certificate, change/add a first name, or correct information on a Boston birth, marriage, or death certificate?
Please contact the Registry Depositions and Corrections Office at 617-635-4182 (Corrections open 9 AM to 3 PM weekdays, closed holidays Call for more information and/or to set up and appointment). They will be able to explain to you what information on a certificate can and cannot be changed. Since they are legal documents, corrections require identification, evidence, and fees. In some cases due to Massachusetts Laws, the Registry cannot make changes so you will be referred to the courts.
How can I legally change my name in court? Boston and other Suffolk County residence can go to Suffolk Probate Court or their own local Massachusetts court. If outside of Massachusetts, check with your local courts for information.
Directions to the Suffolk Probate and Family Court I legally changed my name in court. How do I change my birth certificate to that name? A legal name changes does not change the name on your birth certificate. Make sure you hold on to the Court papers for the legal name change because you may need to present both to renew your driver’s license, health insurance, or use it for other transactions. If your own birth record is restricted you will need your ID and the change of name court papers to access your birth certificate.
Marriage - Intentions and LicensesThe first step towards getting married is to file a Marriage Intention to obtain a Marriage License. Couples must follow these instructions:
- Both parties must be at least 18 years of age.
- Legal first, middle, and last names (and know what surname/last name you will use after marriage)
For Boston and Suffolk County residence, Suffolk Probate Court is a few blocks from City Hall – contact the court for fee information, hours, documents, and directions.
Contact the Suffolk Probate and Family Court What if I do not have a Social Security Number? If you do not have a Social Security Number, you will need to note why on the form that asks for your Social Security Number. The Registry does not record the Social Security numbers on marriage records. My prior marriage was annulled. Do I have to provide anything? If your previous marriage was annulled, you will need to provide a copy of your annulment papers. How much does a Marriage License cost? The couple must pay a $50 application fee at the time they file their Marriage Intention. Cash, money order, credit or debit cards are acceptable forms of payment. Please make money order payable to the City of Boston. How do I apply for a marriage license? See Marriage Intention Instructions above. If the wedding is to be performed in any City or Town in Massachusetts, the couple can obtain a license from the Boston Registry Division or any other City/Town Clerk in Massachusetts. To apply for a Marriage License in Boston, both parties must apply in person in the City of Boston Registry Division. Do we have to be Boston residents in order to
apply in Boston? No, there is no residency requirement for either party and you are not required to live in Massachusetts or the United States. Applications can be made at any City/Town Clerk in the Commonwealth but you must get married in Massachusetts by a person eligible to marry couples in this state. All couples follow the same regulations and requirements. Can I get married in Boston or another city or town in Massachusetts? Yes, you can marry in any city or town in Massachusetts if you follow all of the requirements in applying for a Marriage Intention and License.
Marriage - Special Conditions
What if we want to get married and one of the parties is in the Armed Services and not in Massachusetts? If either party being married is a resident of Massachusetts and one is on Active Military Duty and not in Massachusetts, please call the Registrar’s Office (617-635-4175) for additional information. What if special conditions exist ie: hospitalization, incarceration, medical conditions that prevent one of the parties from applying in person? If special circumstances exist, please contact the Registrar’s Office (617-635-4175) to see if the circumstances meet the Massachusetts General Law conditions.
Marriage - When Can I Get Married?
When can I get my license? There is a mandatory three (3) calendar day waiting period between when you file your marriage intention and when you can pick up your license. While weekends, and holidays are included in the three days, the day the application is made is not included in the 3 days. For example, if you apply on Friday, your license will be issued on or after Monday. Is there a Waiver for the three day waiting period? Yes, there is a Marriage Without Delay waiver option for the three (3) calendar day waiting period, however it is an exception and the Court will charge a $195 fee. The requirement can only be waived by a petition presented and approved by a Judge upon a petition for a marriage waiver.
In Boston you would apply for the Marriage Intention at the Registry Division and then request information on how to apply for a waiver at the Suffolk Probate and Family Court.
If you are applying for the waiver, you first have to apply for the marriage intention/license at the Boston Registry, then we will give you directions for the court. After you have the waiver you return to the Registry to complete and pick up the license, then take the license to a person who can marry couples in Massachusetts. Allow enough time as there are no appointments. What do we do after the three-day waiting period has passed? Registry Marriage staff will give you a small white card with your names, the date you can pick up your actual Marriage License, and the date the license will expire. We do not mail marriage licenses, so the marriage license must be picked up in person prior to the wedding. You or the holder of the white pick-up card can come back after the 3 calendar day wait to review and pick up the license to give to the person performing the marriage ceremony. The individual who picks up the license must verify that all of the information on the license is correct. The license packet will include instructions. How long after issuance is the license valid? The marriage license is valid for sixty (60) days from the day you applied for your Marriage Intention. If it expires you will have to start the process over again and pay a new application fee. How long after my divorce can I get married? Check your divorce decree. You cannot apply for a Marriage Intention until at least one day after the divorce is final (in Massachusetts a divorce is not absolute until after 90 days). If you apply too early, your application will be voided, you will have to reapply and pay the $50 cash fee again, and you will have to begin the license waiting period over.
Marriage - Ceremony
What do I do with the license? Bring the original license to the officiant (a member of the clergy or Justice of the Peace who is commissioned in Massachusetts to preside over the ceremony) of the wedding. To register the marriage, the officiant must complete and sign the license in black ink and return it directly to the City Clerk or Town Clerk that issued the license. They must ONLY fill out the sections outlined in the instructions that come with the license. Reprinting a license will require an additional $12 fee. Who can perform the marriage ceremony? A Massachusetts Minister, Priest, Rabbi, Justice of the Peace, or an individual with a valid One-Day Marriage Designation may perform the ceremony.
Out-of-State Clergy may perform the ceremony in Boston provided that an authorization has been obtained from the Secretary of State’s Office prior to the ceremony. The marriage license will not be registered unless the required authorization is enclosed with the license.
One-Day Marriage Designation
To have a friend/family member perform the ceremony, a One-Day Marriage Designation is required. A One-Day Marriage Designation is granted by the Governor of Massachusetts, according to Mass General Laws Ch. 207, S. 39, to designate non-clergy individuals to solemnize a marriage. The marriage license will not be registered unless the required authorization is enclosed with the license.
One-Day Marriage Designation Can we get married in City Hall? The City Clerk in Room 601 is a Justice of the Peace and couples wishing to be married in City Hall may do so by appointment.
Marriage - Copy of License
When can I get a Certified Copy of my Marriage License once I am married? The officiant will sign and return the original marriage license to the City of Boston Registry Division where your license was issued along with any required authorization. Certified Copies are available after we have received the completed license from the person who performed the wedding. Certified copies are usually available as of the Thursday two weeks after they are received in this office, approved as completed, and given a registration number. However, if the completed license is sent in early in the week the certified copy will not be available until after the following Wednesday.
Marriage - Records
Marriage Records of a Person Born Out-of-Wedlock Access to marriage records when the bride or groom was born out-of-wedlock is limited by §2A, Chapter 46, M.G.L. to the following and a valid ID is required:
Note: you cannot bring a letter from someone saying you can access the record.
Marriage - Name Change
Now that I am married how do I change my name on legal documents? You will need to request a Certified Copy of your Marriage License from where you got your Marriage License. As with so many legal matters, contact the agency and follow their instructions. But here are some tips:
Make your honeymoon reservations using your MAIDEN name. You won't have a passport or driver’s license in your new name yet, so you'll need your tickets to match your documentation.
After the Wedding