19 June 2024

Can You Change Your Child’s Surname?

In short, yes you can, but there are some legal requirements that must be met before a child’s surname can be changed in the UK. Read on to find out about how parental consent plays a part, when permission is required and who needs to seek permission from whom.

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Can you change your child’s surname without the father’s consent?

There are many reasons why a parent may want to change their child’s name. Among them is changing the child’s surname to reflect the mother’s surname where the child’s father does not play a part in the child’s life.

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for the child from birth, whereas fathers will only assume parental responsibility for the child if either:

  • The parents were married at the time that the child was born (or, if they jointly adopted the child); or
  • The father is named on the child’s birth certificate; or
  • The father has a parental responsibility order from the Court.

So, if any of those apply a mother will need to seek the father’s permission before changing the surname; and if none apply, the surname can be changed by the mother without the father’s consent.

In short:

If one parent wishes to change the child’s name, they will need to seek the consent of the other parent, providing that the other parent has parental responsibility for the child.

If one parent wishes to change the child’s name, and the other parent does not have responsibility for the child, there is no legal obligation upon the parent to seek the consent of the other parent before doing so. This can be changed by an unenrolled change of name deed, on behalf of the child in question.

How to change your child’s surname

If you decide to change your name, Kew Law LLP can help you to do this with a change of name deed. Individuals may wish to change their name for a number of reasons and a name change is accepted, unless changing someone’s name is has been undertaken to defraud or has some criminal benefit.  A change of name deed will be prepared by one of our Specialist Solicitors, signed by you and your signature witnessed

When consent is required

If the other parent does have parental responsibility, the parent will need to seek the consent of the other parent before proceeding with the change of name. This should be recorded in writing, as unequivocal evidence of the other parent’s consent to proceed.

If the other parent’s consent is not forthcoming – for example, if the parent refuses, or cannot be traced – the parent wishing to change the child’s name will need to seek the consent of the Court to proceed. This can be done by making an application to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order, whereby the Court will be asked to decide upon whether it would be in the child’s best interest for their name to be changed. A Judge may consider, for example, the age and wishes of the child, the reason for the change of name, and the likely impact this will have on the child.

In order for a decision to be made, this will likely involve a number of Court hearings, and the involvement of CAFCASS (who are independent advisors to the Court regarding the child’s welfare). CAFCASS may investigate the matter, for example by speaking to both parents, speaking to the child (in a child-friendly way) and making recommendations to the Court.

When making a decision, the Court and CAFCASS will consider the Welfare Checklist (Section 1 Children Act 1989) which includes the following:-

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of their age and understanding);
  • Their physical, emotional and/or educational needs;
  • The likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances;
  • Their age, sex, background and any characteristics of theirs which the court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of their parents (and any other person the court considers to be relevant) is of meeting their needs; and
  • The range of powers available to the court in the proceeding

The success of an application without parental consent

As to whether this application will be successful, this will depend entirely upon the specific facts of the situation, and is decided on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, before an application is made, the parent should seek specific legal advice as to the options available to them, the merits of their application, and whether this is likely to be successful, before making such an application.

In many instances, a parent may be criticised by the Court for changing the name of the child without the consent of the other parent, or without an order from the Court authorising for them to do so. The Court has the absolute discretion to make an order to revert the child back to their original name, should this be deemed appropriate in the circumstances. It is therefore essential to ensure the appropriate procedure is followed before changing the child’s name.

How to change your child’s surname when consent is not required

If you decide to change your name, Kew Law LLP can help you to do this with a change of name deed. Individuals may wish to change their name for a number of reasons and a name change is accepted, unless changing someone’s name is has been undertaken to defraud or has some criminal benefit.  A change of name deed will be prepared by one of our Specialist Solicitors, signed by you and your signature witnessed.

Contact Kew Law family lawyers to assist with changing your child’s surname

Kew Law has a dedicated team of specialist Family Lawyers who can assist you with changing your child’s name, from obtaining parental consent, and making an application to the Court for a Specific Issue Order, right up to preparing and actioning the change of name deed. Contact us  today to find out more.

 

 

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