How to change a child's surname

How to change a childs surname

Louisa Knight, solicitor in our specialist family law team, answers the most frquently-asked questions about naming a child and changing a child's name.

How do you legally change a child's surname?

Before you can change a child’s surname, all persons with Parental Responsibility must agree to the change. If all relevant parties are in agreement, you can change the child’s name by deed poll.

If a person with Parental Responsibility does not agree to the change of name, the other party cannot unilaterally change the name without their consent, and they would have to look at sending an application to Court asking for an Order for the name to be changed.

If a court are being asked to change a child’s name, there are various factors that the court would take into account when deciding whether to grant the order changing the name, such as:

  • The Courts paramount consideration is the welfare of the child – the Courts are unlikely to change a name unless the change would lead to an improvement in the child’s welfare
  • Why is the change of name being asked for?
  • If it is a change of surname, circumstances such as whether there are older siblings and what their surnames are may be taken into account

How long does it take to change a child’s last name?

If a Court application is needed, you can be looking at a period of quite a few months (at least 3 months or more) before a decision is made.

Can a child have a different last name?

Children usually take the surname of their father, unless the parents have agreed otherwise.

Who has rights to naming child?

In the case where the parents are married, either parent can register the child’s birth and give a name on the certificate.

If the parents are unmarried, it is the responsibility of the mother to register the birth and give a name.

However, once registration has happened, any parent who does not agree with the name could apply for a change of name through the Courts (unless the parents mutually agree to the change).

Can you change a child’s surname without father’s consent?

If the father has Parental Responsibility, you cannot change a child’s name without their consent.

If the father does not have Parental Responsibility, the mother can change the child’s name but the father will be able to make an application to Court asking for the name to be changed back.

Can I change my child’s name if I have sole care?

Even if the child is in your sole care, where the other parent has Parental Responsibility, you will not be able to change their name without the consent of all persons with Parental Responsibility.

Can you change a child's name on a birth certificate?

You can apply to change the birth certificate where a mistake was made when registering the birth.

However, unless you are correcting a mistake within the child’s name on the certificate, the name must legally be changed by deed poll.

Can you change a child's name by deed poll?

Yes, as long as all those with Parental Responsibility for the child agree to the change of name.

What happens if parents can't agree on a name?

If the parents are married, and the husband is the father of the child, then either parent can register the birth on their own, and therefore choose the name.

If the parents are unmarried, until the father gains Parental Responsibility through being named on the birth certificate.

Does the father have a say in the baby's name?

Whilst an unmarried mother could register the child without consulting the father, the father could make an applicant to Court to change the name of a child.

What last name does baby take if not married?

It is up to the parents to decide what surname their child will have, but children usually take the surname of their father.

How long can you wait to name a baby?

Generally, within 42 days of the birth you must register the birth. However, due to the current Covid-19 crisis, this may not be possible. Before attending a registry office to register the birth, you should contact the office to ensure that you will be able to do so.

Child name changes: A solicitor's view

"A child's name is considered to form part of their identity and courts are unlikely to order a name change without good reason; for example where the welfare of the child is a concern if the name remains unchanged.

We are asked this question by separating parents, or where one parent has minimal contact with the child. A name change order will not usually be given for these circumstances alone."

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