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Can I change my child's name?

View profile for Shelley Cumbers
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Parents involved in a relationship breakdown will often have lots of questions to ask surrounding the arrangements for their children, including how to manage their day-to-day care, how to deal with child maintenance and how to organise where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent following a separation or divorce.

One of the questions I am often asked is, “Can I change my child’s name following separation?”

The answer to this question depends on whether both parents agree to the child’s change of name or not.

If both parents have parental responsibility for their child and agree for their name to be changed, then a Child Change of Name Deed can be prepared for them to sign to give effect to the agreed change of name.  Once the Change of Name Deed has been signed, the Deed will act as evidence of the child’s name change and the parents can then furnish the Deed to the child’s nursery, school, passport agency and any other authorities who may need to be notified of the change of name.

A parent with parental responsibility does not agree

If a parent with parental responsibility does not agree for the child to be known by any other name, then the child’s name cannot be changed unilaterally by the other parent. 

This is because unless both parents agree, a child’s name cannot be changed without obtaining permission from the court.  This means the parent seeking to change the child’s name will have to apply to the Family Court for an Order, otherwise known as a Specific Issue Order, for the child’s name to be changed. 

They will need to explain to the court why they want to change the child’s name and address any concerns the other parent may have in terms of the motivation behind the proposed name change, such as it being an attempt to reduce the role or significance of the other parent in the child’s life.

If it becomes necessary to involve the court to resolve the change of name issue, then the court will need to be satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child for their name to be changed. This is because, whenever the court is asked to determine any question with respect to the upbringing of a child, the child’s welfare will be the court’s paramount consideration. 

The court will consider several factors, otherwise known as the “welfare checklist” under section 1 of the Children Act 1989 to determine the issue and will not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all (this is often referred to as “the no order principle”).  

The parent opposing the change of name, will have an opportunity to respond to the application and in doing so, he/she shall need to explain why they do not agree for the child’s name to be changed and address any concerns they have.

Contested Court proceedings have the potential to be extremely costly, both from a financial and emotional perspective and it is generally best for parents to agree the arrangements for their children amicably, if possible, including any potential change of name. 

 

If you are a parent involved in a separation or divorce and you need advice on the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact me.  

I offer a free of charge initial chat to discuss these types of issues and to explain how I can assist, to include preparing a Child Change of Name Deed if that is agreed.  You can call me directly on 01206 217378 or email shelley.cumbers@birkettlong.co.uk.

 

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