The current way of changing your own name is to do it by Deed Poll and that also applies to the situation where you want to change the name of your child. It is, however a slightly more complicated process to change the name of a child than it is to change your own name.
There may be many reasons why a parent would want to change the name of the child with the main reason often being due to having no contact with an estranged father. If this is the case and the mother has divorced the father then she may wish the child to carry her surname (maiden name) rather than the surname of the father.
If you wish to change the name of a child you do not have to specify the reason you simply have to follow the required process.
In order to change the name of a child you must have the consent of that person who has parental responsibility over that child. Often you will be required to prove this consent by a written letter of consent from that person.
Once your child is over the age of 16 they will be able to change their name themselves by deed poll. If a child is under 16 years old then consent from the person with parental responsibility over that child will be required.
Please note that parental responsibility will not be lost when a child turns 16 – this will last until the child turns 18. However, for the purposes of changing a name by deed poll 16 is taken to be the age at which a person can consent to their own name change.
Parental responsibility is a legal term which means that a person will have all the legal rights, duties, powers and responsibilities over a child. If a person has parental responsibility over a child it essentially means that they are responsible for that child’s health, education and welfare. Consequently this means that they also have the right to be consulted about any issues involving that child’s health, education and welfare.
Parental responsibility can be held by either the mother or the father. Parental responsibility can therefore be sole or joint responsibility.
If you have sole responsibility only you will need to consent to the name change of your child.
If you have joint responsibility over a child then both people will need to provide their consent to the change of the child’s name.
Under UK Law a mother will automatically be given parental responsibility over her child immediately when it is born.
Compared to the parental responsibility of the mother which is an automatic responsibility the father’s responsibility is a right which depends on various factors:
Please note that different rules in relation to parental responsibility exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If a father is deemed to have parental responsibility due to the any of the above factors then the parental responsibility of the child will be the joint responsibility of both parents and so the father will therefore have to give his consent to the name change.
As above an unmarried father can gain parental responsibility by marrying the mother or by registering or reregistering on the birth certificate. The following other options are also available to unmarried fathers:
If you adopt a child then you will be provided with parental responsibility over that child.
Often a mother will remarry and the new step father will wish to gain parental responsibility of a child. They can do this in the following ways:
If an unmarried father or a step father obtains parental responsibility for a child the parental responsibility over the child will be joint and therefore the consent of both parents is required for a name change.
If the father no longer lives with the mother but still has parental responsibility over the child and refuses his consent to the name change the only option available to the mother is to apply to the court for the court’s permission in order to change the name.
A court will only grant permission for a name change for a child if it believes that it will be in the best interests of the child to allow the name change.
The court will take into account the following issues when deciding whether to give its permission for the name change:
A parent can lose parental responsibility over their child in one of the following ways:
A birth certificate is a legal document which was correct at the time of birth and so therefore it is very rare for it to be able to be changed.
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