Changing a Child’s Surname
Why can changing a child’s surname be so important? When parents separate, whether it be dissolving a civil partnership or getting a divorce, it is not unusual for the resident parent to wish to change their children’s family name to either their own or their new partner’s name if they get remarried.
A name change makes applying for official documents, like passports, less complicated and it could be seen as unifying the new family members.
You can change a child’s name after registration of birth by deed poll or by a change of name deed / statutory declaration. However, before you do so you must have permission from all parties with parental responsibility. If you are the only person with parental responsibility, then ideally you should still seek permission from the other parent, because otherwise they could apply to the court to stop or reverse the name change.
Change of Name Deed
If both parties reach an agreement regarding the changing of a child’s name, it can be formalised by deed poll or by preparing a Change of Name Deed / statutory. This legal document acts as proof of the name change for official purposes.
What happens if I do not have consent from all parties?
If both parties are unable to reach an agreement, the following options are available:
Specific Order Issue
If both parties cannot reach an agreement regarding the name change for a child, the parent requesting the name change can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order. The family court will then examine and review the details of the case and decide if it is in the child’s best interests.
Prohibited Steps Order
If the resident parent decides to change the child’s family name without permission from the non-residential parent who has parental responsibility, the non-resident parent can challenge this in court by applying for a Prohibitive Steps Order. The family court will examine and review the details of the case and decide if it is in the child’s best interests.
What will the court look at when deciding if a child’s name should be changed?
A child’s name is considered an integral part of their identity and therefore this type of application is not taken lightly by the court.
The court will base any decision on the welfare checklist. The court is generally reluctant to authorise a change of name unless it is in the child’s interests to do so.
The court will look at factors such as embarrassment to the child and parent of having different surnames, the child’s wishes and feelings, but most importantly the extent to which the child’s original surname is important to maintain links with the parent and other relations who the child does not live with.
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