Change of name
The surname that a child goes by after their parents have divorced or separated can be a sensitive issue but it’s something that needs to be agreed upon. Changing a child’s surname can often cause distress to a parent if they do not agree with the decision.
Questions about changing a child’s last name can arise particularly in cases where a child lives with the mother who has changed her own surname. This could be by reverting to her maiden name by deed poll or by remarrying.
Other common reasons someone may be looking to change a child’s name could include:
⦁ One of the parents believing they are being prevented from exercising their parental responsibility if they are unable to change the child’s name. For example, this may be the case if the mother feels she was controlled by the father and was not given the choice of choosing the child’s name at the time of registration.
⦁ A parent stating that they feel distressed when calling the child by their registered name, perhaps if the child shares their surname of an abusive ex-partner; this could potentially impact on the other parent’s ability to care for the child.
⦁ If a child has siblings in their home who go by a different last name (for example, if they have different fathers). Whilst one parent may want to change the child’s name to the same as their siblings, either to allow family unit to operate under one name, or to simplify share the same name,
To legally change the last name of a child that is less than sixteen years old, you’ll need the consent of everyone who holds parental responsibility for them.
If one parent does not consent to a change of name
When not all of those with parental responsibility for the child agree to the name change, special circumstances or a court order may mean you can change the child’s name without their consent.
If the child’s other parent is present but unwilling to give their permission to the name change, the only way you will be able to change the name will be through obtaining an order from the courts.
However, if another parent tries to change your child’s surname without your consent, you may be able to prevent this from happening using a specific issue order or, if the application has already been made, appeal the decision.
If one parent holding parental responsibility is absent
If the other parent has been absent from the child’s life for a substantial period of time and you are physically unable to ask them for their consent, you may be able to change your child’s surname without their permission.
Once you have officially changed your child’s name, you’ll need to send out the deed poll document and a cover letter containing the details of your situation to all relevant parties.
This letter should include an explanation of your attempts to contact the child’s absent parent, how long they have been absent for, and how they are no longer a part of your child’s life. It should also state that the absent parent has made no financial contributions to or had any other involvement in the child’s upbringing.
Whilst this should be sufficient for some organisations, it is possible that others – such as the Identity and Passport Service – will still not accept the name change. You may need to obtain a court order to ensure a name change is accepted where someone with parental responsibility is absent.
For a court order to be made under these circumstances, the whereabouts of the other parents must be unknown and you must be able to prove that you have taken sufficient steps to contact them before making your application for a change of name.
How to change your child’s last name
In order for a change of name to be fully legally recognised, all of those with parental responsibility for the child will need to fill out a deed poll document. If the child is aged between sixteen and eighteen, they’ll need to sign this too.
This will be submitted with a copy of the child’s birth certificate and, much like when applying for a passport, a declaration from a trusted third party to confirm the child’s identity.
The deed poll must also be supported by an Affidavit, which is a solemn promise that the proposed name change is for the benefit of the child.