Childrens Name Changes
Can I change the name of my child and what is the process whereby I can do this?
A child’s name can be changed for a number of reasons and the most common way to do this is through deed poll. That being said childrens name changes is slightly more complicated than what you may think.
Reasons for a name change
There countless reasons why you may wish to change the name of your child. The most common reason is when the child has no contact with their estranged father. If this applies, and the mother has divorced the father, she can request that the child holds her surname (maiden name) as opposed to the surname of the father. When changing the name of a child you do not have to provide a reason, but you do have to follow a specific process.
For childrens name changes you must obtain consent from the individual(s) who have parental responsibility over the child. Often you will have to provide written proof of this consent.
Once a child reaches the age of 16 years, they can change their name themselves through deed poll. If a child is younger than 16 years old, consent will be required from the individual who holds parental responsibility over the child. However, it does not mean that parental responsibility will cease once the child reaches the age of 16, parental responsibility runs until a child reaches the age of 18 years. A child aged 16 or over can consent to their own name change without seeking permission from their parents.
Parental responsibility is quite a specific legal term which means that an individual has all the legal rights, responsibilities, duties and powers over a child. When an adult has parental responsibility over a child, they are directly responsible for the child’s welfare, education and health. Parental responsibility is usually held by a mother or father and it can be either joint or individual responsibility of the parents.
When sole parental responsibility applies, only one parent will need to consent to the name change.
For joint responsibility, both parents will need to provide their consent for the child to change their name.
When a child is born, the mother is usually given automatic parental responsibility over a child in the UK
Parental responsibility of the father on the other hand will depend on a number of factors:
- If the mother was married to the father at the time of the child’s birth, the father will also hold parental responsibility
- If the mother marries the father any time after the birth of the child, the father can assume parental responsibility
An unmarried father can automatically acquire parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificated. This is a relatively new development in law which was introduced in 2003.
An unmarried father can obtain parental responsibility over a child if he becomes registered through re-registration. This change also came into effect from December 2003.
It must be noted however that these rules will differ in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Where a father holds parental responsibility because they meet any of the above criteria, the father is deemed to share parental responsibility over the child. As a result, the father will need to provide consent if the mother wishes to change the name of the child. This is applicable even if the mother and father are divorced, separated, have remarried or have no contact with the child, they will still need to consent to the name change.
Unmarried fathers can obtain parental responsibility either through marriage or by re-registration which requests that the birth certificate is changed. There are also a number of other options available to an unmarried father including:
- When the father is awarded parental responsibility by the court
- If the father enters into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
- If the father is issued with a Custody or Residence Order
- If the father is appointed Guardian of the child by the court
Rules also relate to how step fathers can assume parental responsibility.
When the mother remarries, the new step father will obtain parental responsibility in a number of ways:
- If they are awarded parental responsibility by the court in England and Wales
- If the step father enters into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
- Through a formal adoption process
- Where the father is granted a Residence or Custody Order or they are appointed as a Guardian.
All of these will need to be carried out by the court.
What is the process if a father who no longer lives with the mother refuses to give his consent for the name change?
Sometimes, disputes can arise and a father with parental responsibility may be unwilling to allow a name change. If the mother still wants to proceed with the name change they will have to make an application to the Court to obtain permission to change the name of the child. In this situation, the court will usually grant permission if they believe that it would be in the child’s best interests to change their name. The court will take into consideration several factors before reaching a decision in relation to permission including how committed the father is and how consistent the contact has been between the father and the child. In addition, if the child is over the age of 11 years, the court will also consult them and take their opinions and views into consideration before reaching a decision.
Parental responsibility can be lost in any one of the following ways:
- When an individual with parental responsibility passes away
- If another individual adopts the child
- If a parental responsibility order issued by the court is revoked or terminated
- If parental responsibility naturally comes to an end following an application to the court
- After the court has provided permission following an application made by the child
- As a birth certificate is a legal document, there are only a handful of situations where the information on the certificate can be changed.
About the author:
This article was written for Allaboutuklaw by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.