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Changing a child’s name after divorce

Tags: divorce, separation, changing a child’s name, change of name, deed poll
Content Types: Children In the Middle
Categories: After Separation

When a relationship ends, you’ll want to do everything you can to create a stable environment for your children. Usually, following a divorce, children keep their original surname. However, there are some circumstances under which you might want to change your child’s name, such as, if you’ve entered a new relationship and you want everyone in the stepfamily to have the same family name.

Naming a child

When a child is born, their name has to be registered on the birth certificate within 42 days. Children traditionally take their surname or family name from their father but not all families follow this tradition.

If the child’s parents aren’t married when they are born, then the father’s name may not be on the birth certificate at all. An unmarried father’s name is only added to the birth certificate if both parents agree. In such cases, the child may have the mother’s surname.

Changing a child’s name

You can start to change your child’s name informally through common usage. However, for a full legal change of name, you need to get a deed poll. This is just a legal document that says your child has a new name. You can apply for a deed poll online. It costs £14 and comes with a list of instructions on how to complete and return the document.

You will need to provide the child’s birth certificate, proof of consent from everyone with parental responsibility, and a witness who can confirm your child’s identify. You will also need to get written consent from your child if they are aged between 16 and 18 years old.

Parental consent

To change a child’s name, you need to get consent, not just from your child’s other parent, but also from anyone who has parental responsibility. This includes anyone who is named on the birth certificate and anyone with a court order for parental responsibility, such as a stepparent.

The Court will look at the request to change the child’s name and make a decision in the child’s best interest. A parent cannot change their child’s name alone, unless they are the only person with parental responsibility.

In some cases, such as when the father is not named on the birth certificate, it may be possible for the mother to apply to change the child’s name without the father’s consent. In these cases, it is possible for the father to object by issuing something called a Specific Issue Order, stating that they don’t want the name to change.  

Objections

If a court order is issued against the name change, the Court will consider all the facts. Their aim is to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Also, if your child doesn’t want their name to be changed, they can object, and the Court will listen to their reasons why.

If you and your child’s other parent lived together as a family for a long time, sharing the family name, the Court may not agree to the name change. This is because the name is a part of the child’s identity and a link to their paternity.

There are some special circumstances under which a child’s name can be changed without permission from the other parent. If the other parent is in prison, if a No Contact Order has been issued, or if there is a threat of violence from the other parent, it is usually possible to change the name without consent.

Before you make a decision, think about everyone who will be affected. Think about the other parent’s feelings, and how the child might later feel about having had their name changed.

If you’d like to discuss your options with a Family Law Solicitor, you can contact our partners at Co-op Legal Services for 15 minutes of free legal advice.

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