Changing a Child’s Surname

10 July 2017

By Family & Divorce Solicitor Sarah Milner

If your child is under the age of 16, you can change their surname by Deed Poll. You’ll need to get permission from everyone with Parental Responsibility to do this. Otherwise you’ll need to make an application to the Court.

Why Change a Surname?

Common reasons to change a child’s surname include:

  • Believing you were prevented from exercising Parental Responsibility by being deprived of the right to choose the child's name (i.e. the other parent forced you to choose a certain name)
  • Using that name for your child causes you distress, for instance if your child is named after the other parent who has been violent
  • Safety and protection concerns
  • Wanting all the children of the family to have the same surname

Can I Change My Child’s Surname?

If a child is under the age of 16, their parents can change their child’s surname by Deed Poll. You’ll need to get a deed of change of name, although to do this, everyone with Parental Responsibility for the child must consent to the change.

Once you’ve got the deed of change of name approved, you can start to use your child’s new surname and arrange for it to be changed on official documents, such as their passport. You would need to show their birth certificate and the deed to do this.

Will the Birth Certificate be Changed?

It is unlikely that your child’s name on their birth certificate will be changed as this is considered a historical record which is correct at the time of birth.

What if those with Parental Responsibility do not Consent?

If consent cannot be obtained from everyone with Parental Responsibility for the child, you can make an application to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order to change your child’s name.

When deciding whether to approve the change, the Court will have to consider the reasons given for changing the child’s surname and would have to determine the change is in the child’s best interests. This is taken very seriously by the Court as a child’s surname is considered an integral part of their identity and therefore it is often very difficult to persuade the Court to make such an Order. One option often considered is to change the child’s surname to a double-barrelled surname, so that they have the name of both their parents.

Can’t contact someone with Parental Responsibility?

It may be possible to change your child’s surname by Deed Poll without the other parent's consent if you are unable to locate him/her. You must take reasonable steps to contact the other parent before making an application for a name change and must provide evidence of the enquiries you have made.

However, there may be some restrictions with using the new surname if the Deed Poll service has allowed a change of name without the consent of the absent parent, such as problems at the passport office. It is therefore usually better to make an application through the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order.

What if I don’t have Parental Responsibility for my Child?

If you do not have Parental Responsibility for your child, it is good practice for the parent with Parental Responsibility to still seek your consent to any change of your child’s name. If you discover that your child’s name has been changed without your consent, you can make an application to the Court for the change to be reversed.

Also see Change of Child Surname Case Study

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