A child acquires his or her name shortly after their birth.
This is usually done by either both parents, or the Mother or father. It can also be someone else with parental responsibility, such as a Grandmother or an Aunt. The birth certificate is the official record of the child’s name. it is possible to change a child’s first name or surname, or even to add more names.
Who can change a child’s name?
- If only one parent or person has parental responsibility, that person can legally change the child’s name. however it is always good practice to seek permission from the Court, if the person who does not have parental responsibility objects.
- If two or more people have parental responsibility (ie parents) then all of them must agree to change the child’s name. It is always wise to get this in writing. If no agreement can be reached then an application to the Court must be made for the Court’s permission to allow the name change.
- If there is already an order in force in relation to where the child shall live, consent of all parties or the Court must be obtained before changing the child’s name.
- If both parties have parental responsibility and one parent has changed the child’s name without consent, the other parent can make an application to the Court for the child’s name to be changed back to the original name. The Court will consider what is best for the child when deciding whether to allow or undo a name change.
What is the procedure to changing a child’s name?
There is no set legal procedure, as long as every one is agreed and has given their consent, everyone simply starts using the new name.
It is important to remember that a change of name is not something to be taken lightly. The Court must satisfy itself that changing a child’s name is in that child’s best interest. In the case of an unmarried couple, the Court will take into consideration the degree of commitment of the father to the child as well as the quality of contact.
There is no clear guidance which confirms once a child turns 16 that the consent of any other person holding parental responsibility may be dispensed with in order to effect a change of surname. The safest measure would be to make an application to the court and given the child’s age it is reasonable to assume that their views will be given serious consideration.
The court is also likely to accept the reality that where a 16/17 year old child is determined to be known by a new surname, they are likely to achieve that result informally by asking their friends and school to call them by the surname of their choice, regardless of any decision of the court.
If all parties are agreed and the child is to be known with a new name, most official organisations will need documentary evidence that there has been a change of name deed. Everyone with parental responsibility for the child will need to sign the deed and those signatures must be witnessed. If a child has reached the age of 16 they can endorse the change of name deed with their consent signed in both their old and new names.