If you are intending to remarry and you may decide that you wish to change the surname of your children to that of your new husband. Your legal authority to do this this will depend on whether the child’s other parent is named on their birth certificate.
Who is Named on the Birth Certificate?
If you are the only parent named on your child’s birth certificate then you can change your child’s surname if you choose. The change of name can be done without a Court Order, and your child can be known by a new surname simply through informal usage. There is currently no legal requirement for you to record the change of name but it is often seen as good practice to record the change in a name deed. The change of name deed is often requested by some agencies and organisations, such as the Passport Office, for proving the identity of the child.
If your child’s father is named on the birth certificate this will mean that he has Parental Responsibility for your child. Parental Responsibility is the duties, rights and obligations that a parent has towards a child, and relates to the decisions that you make as a parent.
If the child’s father is named on the birth certificate, and therefore has Parental Responsibility, their permission will need to be obtained before the child’s surname can be changed. Yet again the consent of the father does not have to be in writing but it is often considered to be appropriate to obtain this.
What if My Child’s Father Doesn’t Consent?
If your child’s father is named on the birth certificate and will not provide his consent for the child’s surname to be changed, then you would need to make an application to the Court. The Court would then make a decision as to whether the change of surname is to happen. When the Court look at your application their paramount concern is for the welfare of your child. As such, they will not make an Order for a change of surname unless there is evidence that it would lead to an improvement in the welfare of the child.
The Court currently consider a number of principles when deciding whether a change of surname should be made, such as:
- The registered surname of the child and the reasons behind the registration. For example, is there a recognition of the biological link of the child to their father?
- Future considerations as well as present ones.
- Any change of circumstances since the original registration of the child’s name.
In circumstances where you were married to the child’s father at the time of the registration of the child’s name, you would have to provide very strong reasons to change the child’s surname. In some cases, the Court has only considered that there should be a change of surname when there has been extreme domestic abuse or threats of abduction.
If you wish to change the surname of your child we would suggest that you seek independent legal advice from a Family Solicitor who could advise you on your options based on your current circumstances.