Children’s Name Changes

Can I change the name of my child and what is the process whereby I can do this?

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.

Why would I want to change the name of my child?

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.

What is the process whereby I can change my child’s name?

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.

At what age can my child change his or her own name?

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.

What is meant by the term parental responsibility?

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.

Who has parental responsibility over a child?

Parental responsibility can be held by either the mother or the father.  Parental responsibility can therefore be sole or joint responsibility.

Who will need to consent to the name change?

  • Sole Responsibility

If you have sole responsibility only you will need to consent to the name change of your child.

  • Joint Responsibility

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.

The mother’s parental responsibility

Under UK Law a mother will automatically be given parental responsibility over her child immediately when it is born.

The father’s parental responsibility

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:

  • In England and Wales if the mother was married to the father when the child was born the father will also have parental responsibility.
  • In England and Wales if the mother marries the father at any time after the birth of the child the father will also have parental responsibility.
  • Since December 2003 an unmarried father will automatically acquire parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.
  • Since December 2003 an unmarried father will also acquire parental responsibility if he later becomes registered by re-registration on the child’s birth certificate.

Please note that different rules in relation to parental responsibility exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Does the father have to give consent to the name change?

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.

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For more information on:

  • What is the case if the child’s parents are divorced?
  • Apart from the above circumstances is there any way which an unmarried father can gain parental responsibility?
  • What happens if we adopt a child?
  • What is the case in relation to step fathers?
  • What is the process if a father who no longer lives with the mother refuses to give his consent for the name change?
  • In what circumstances will the court grant permission?
  • What issues will the court take into account?
  • Are there any ways in which a parent can lose parental responsibility of their child?
  • If I change my child’s name by deed poll can I change the birth certificate?