Family solicitor Hannah Porter explains the legalities of changing a child’s name.
A person’s name is incredibly important, it is how they are known, it is a central part of their identity. When a child is born, parents choose the name together, it’s an important process. The surname of child might be carrying a family name down to the next generation, names are important and they really matter. Therefore if one parent wishes to change a child’s name, it can be incredibly emotive.
A change of name situation often arises in relation to surname and typically this happens when the child has been registered in the with the father’s surname, the parties have separated, and the child is now spending the majority of their time, (if not all their time) with the mother. It tends to be the mother that wants to change a children’ surname from that of their father (as registered at birth) back to their own surname.
Can you change a child’s name?
It is possible for a child’s name to be changed from that originally agreed between parents and registered on the birth certificate.
Change of name is a decision that has to be made with the agreement of both parents who have parental responsibility, if one parent does not consent to the changing of the child’s name, the matter has to be determined at court.
If both parents agree
If both parents agree to the name change, a child’s name can be changed by deed poll. The officials will require the permission of both parents who have parental responsibility
If one parent does not agree
If one parent does not agreed, the matter has to go before the Court. The court will only agree to change the child’s name if it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
Taking our example of a mother trying to change the surname of the child from that of the father to her own, the court will consider factors such as:
- The fathers relationship with the child
- The fathers commitment to the child
- Reasons given by the mother for seeking to change the child’s name
- Any change in the circumstances of the child since the original registration of their name at birth
- Any relevant considerations that might arise in the future
If the father in our hypothetical scenario had been married to the mother, the fact of the marriage is a relevant consideration and the mother would have to provide a very good reason to the Court for the Court to allow a change of the child’s name from the father’s surname.
If the father in our hypothetical scenario was not married to the child’s mother, and the mother had control over the registration and it was the father wishing to change the child’s name to his surname; the degree of commitment of the father to the child, and the quality of contact and the existence or absence of parental responsibility of the father are all relevant factors the Court will take into account.
Your child’s name is important and if you find yourself faced with a request to change your child’s name it is important to take legal advice on your specific situation.
To discuss changing your child’s name or any family law issue please do get in touch. Email [email protected] or telephone 01392 421777.