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Changing a Child's Surname

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 31 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Changing A Child's Surname Surname Birth

Changing a child's surname is a common cause of conflict between parents, especially if they are separated, newly married to another partner or were not married to each other at the time the birth was registered. So who can change a child's surname and how?

Anyone can change their name by deed poll (using a deed of change of name) but sometimes additional consent from other parties with parental responsibility is needed. Your birth certificate will not normally be changed as this is a historical record of your name at birth.

What is a Deed Poll?

A Deed Poll is a legal document in which a person agrees to carry out an action set out in the document. For a Deed to Change Name, a person is simply agreeing to change their name and going forwards be known by their new name.

Who Can Make an Deed Poll Application?

For children, an application will need to be made by their parents using a specific application for minors. Importantly, all those with parental responsibility will need to consent to the name change.

If a care order is in place, the Local Authority will have parental responsibility so must consent to the name change. Speak to your case worker to discuss your reasons for wanting the change and to obtain their consent.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility as defined by S.3(1) Children Act 1989 is: 'all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property'.
Essentially, it is the power to make practical and important decisions about a child such as where they go to school, where they live and what religion they follow.

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

Below is a breakdown of all those who have automatic parental responsibility:
  • Mothers (regardless of whether married or divorced)
  • Fathers married to the mother at the time of birth (and this is not lost if they later divorce)
  • Fathers not married to the mother at the time of birth but who later marry the mother
  • Anyone with a Parental Responsibility Agreement or Order from the Court providing Parental Responsibility
  • Anyone whose name is registered on the birth certificate (even if unmarried) after 1 December 2003
  • Anyone with a Residence Order prior to 22 Aril 2014

Why Change a Child's Name?

There are many reasons why parents may wish to change a child's name and so this is really an endless list. However common reasons given include:
  • Parents have split up following birth of the child and one parent no longer has contact with the child
  • Parents have got married after birth of the child and wish to change the child's name to match their married name
  • A parent is distressed that their child has the same name as an abusive former partner and this may have an impact on their care of the child
  • The child has not been known by their legal name for a long period of time and is no longer known by that name
  • A parent wishes all their children to have the same surname
Changing a child's name is a significant and important decision and not one to be taken lightly. In particular it should not be used to "get back" at a former partner, and the courts will strongly disapprove of this

If you need assistance with changing your child's name, speak to your local Citizen's Advice Bureau who can often provide free and independent legal advice.

Below are some answers to questions we're commonly asked.

What if the Other Parent Objects to the Name Change?

If one (or more) parties with parental responsibility will not consent to the name change, then you can apply to court to change a child's name. You will need to apply for a Specific Issue Order. The court will determine any such application by considering what is in the best interests of the child.

What if the Other Party Cannot be Contacted to Consent?

Sometimes a party with parental responsibility cannot be contacted (eg a father who was named on the birth certificate after 1 December 2003 but who has split from the mother and is no longer involved in the child's life).

In that situation it is possible for a child's name to be changed by deed poll. However the parent making the application must have made reasonable attempts to try to contact the other party/parties with parental responsibility. The deed poll service will want to see evidence of attempts to make contact. Evidence of this should normally include:

  • Writing to the person's last known address (keep a copy of the letter)
  • Emailing the person's last known email address (keep a copy of the email, and any can't deliver message if applicable)

It is important to note that even if the deed poll service allows a child's name to be changed in these circumstances, the passport office may still refuse to accept the name change. This is because they often use a more rigorous test when assessing whether reasonable attempts have been made to contact the other party. This is largely due to child abduction concerns. It is often better to consider applying to the court for an order permitting the change in these circumstances. Without opposition from the other party, an order is more likely to be granted.

What if My Child's Name Has Been Changed but I Don't Have Parental Responsibility?

If a party without parental responsibility discovers that their child's name has been changed, they can apply to the court for the change to be reversed. There would however need to be a good reason for this.

[TIP: If you are applying to the court for a name change reversal, it would also be a good idea to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order at the same time. This will prevent further decisions (e.g your child's medical treatment, or where they will live) being made without your consent, or a court order.]

Can I Just Call my Child Something Different Without Changing their Legal Name?

A child can be given a "known name" which is different to their legal name. This is just similar to using a nickname. The child's true legal name will however still need to be used on official documents, such as academic certificates, and when for example registering your child at a doctors.

If a party with parental responsibility does not agree with the use of the child's "known name" then they can apply to the court for an order to stop the "known name" being used. The court is only likely to grant such an order with good reason though (e.g just because you dislike your son William being known as "Bill", you will not be given an order by the court to prevent this). It is therefore important if contesting this to clearly set out your reasons for the objection.

Where do apply for a Deed Poll application form?

There are many websites offering a service to change your name by deed poll but you can do this yourself directly via the government website here

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[Add a Comment]
AJ - Your Question:
Trying to help my niece who had a boyfriend and they had a son but they never lived together and indeed separated before the child was born, he has paid no or very little child support and 7 years later she married to her partner. The child ha always had her surname but he is refusing to give permission to allow the newly wed couple to take her husbands surname as she has. Seems very unfair

Our Response:
She can apply to the courts to have the name changed. The courts may consider allowing the name change if the father is not involved in the children's lives at all. The fact that he doesn't pay maintenance will not really have any bearing on the case.
LawAndParents - 1-Nov-17 @ 3:47 PM
Trying to help my niece who had a boyfriend and they had a son but they never lived together and indeed separated before the child was born, he has paid no or very little child support and 7 years later she married to her partner. The child ha always had her surnamebut he is refusing to give permission to allow the newly wed couple to take her husbands surname as she has. Seems very unfair
AJ - 31-Oct-17 @ 9:36 PM
Dad - Your Question:
Hi. my daughter has a double barrel name (mine and her mams surname.) however I have just found out that her mam has registered my daughter as only her surname with her school. I asked her mam if she would change it to her name that is on the birth certificate and she said she would, however she hasn't. Is their something I can do to get my daughters name changed to her real name?( I am on my daughters birth certificate and have always been in my daughters life and have regular contact with her!)

Our Response:
You could try contacting the school directly. Schools usually use any "official" name (i.e the name that is on a birth certificate/passport etc) on a school file but will concur with parents' wishes for a "known as name - that may be what's happened here.
LawAndParents - 31-Oct-17 @ 12:37 PM
Hi. my daughter has a double barrel name (mine and her mams surname.) however I have just found out that her mam has registered my daughter as only her surname with her school. I asked her mam if she would change it to her name that is on the birth certificate and she said she would, however she hasn't. Is theirsomething I can do to get my daughters name changed to her real name? ( I am on my daughters birth certificate and have always been in my daughters life and have regular contact with her!)
Dad - 28-Oct-17 @ 4:33 PM
Samdav578 - Your Question:
Hi my partner has three kids all his kids got double barrel last names so their mothers last name then his last name but for some reason she had asked to change it and take hers out he’s asked bumptious times why now after all this time and she keeps saying personal reasons he hasn’t a clue what to do and why she being like this he has his kids when he’s ment to and much more and all she has done is be awkward so it’s hard to trust what she saying could some help please

Our Response:
We don't know what her reasons could be but as long as his name is not being removed, we guess he doesn't really mind? He doesn't have to consent to the name change anyway.
LawAndParents - 17-Oct-17 @ 10:17 AM
Fred - Your Question:
My stepson father walked out on him when he was 2 he is 13 now. I have been with his Mum 10years and married 2years how could we change his name we have no contact with his father. Thanks

Our Response:
Firstly try and contact the natural father and ask his consent. If you cannot trace his whereabouts or he will not consent, you will need to apply to court for the name change.
LawAndParents - 16-Oct-17 @ 11:11 AM
Hi my partner has three kids all his kids got double barrel last names so their mothers last name then his last name but for some reason she had asked to change it and take hers out he’s asked bumptious times why now after all this time and she keeps saying personal reasons he hasn’t a clue what to do and why she being like this he has his kids when he’s ment to and much more and all she has done is be awkward so it’s hard to trust what she saying could some help please
Samdav578 - 16-Oct-17 @ 1:13 AM
Hi My daughter was sexually abused by her father- we have been awaiting the CPS to make a decision now- after a collection of evidence for nearly a year and half now. My daughter is very stressed having his name and has been requesting it gets changed- I was awaiting the court case but as it has been a long process I feel it best to change it now. She would like my surname and to remove her middle names which are his name (an arabic tradition). Her counsellor has expressed the improtance of me doing so, but I am not sure how to go about it. I am not intouch with her father for obvious reasons. I would like to renew her passport with her new name since it has expired. He is named on her birth certificate. Please can you help me?
Andi- - 15-Oct-17 @ 7:15 PM
My stepson father walked out on him when he was 2 he is 13 now. I have been with his Mum 10years and married 2years how could we change his name we have no contact with his father. Thanks
Fred - 13-Oct-17 @ 10:54 AM
Cass - Your Question:
I am in a court battle with my sons father as the moment and the father hasn’t been involved in my sons life consistently at all and my son is now 10. I changed my sons name when he was 5 to the same as mine and during a court hearing the judge decided to change it to a double barrel name which I objected but was forced. I have taken the paperwork into the school and the school informed me that my son can have a known by name for his books and In class but on the school system he will have the name ordered by court. Today the school have rang to say that actually because of the court case and order I am unable to have a known by name, is this correct?

Our Response:
As long as the paperwork and school records show his full double barrelled name - he can be called whatever he chooses.
LawAndParents - 10-Oct-17 @ 3:49 PM
I am in a court battle with my sons father as the moment and the father hasn’t been involved in my sons life consistently at all and my son is now 10. I changed my sons name when he was 5 to the same as mine and during a court hearing the judge decided to change it to a double barrel name which I objected but was forced. I have taken the paperwork into the school and the school informed me that my son can have a known by name for his books and In class but on the school system he will have the name ordered by court. Today the school have rang to say that actually because of the court case and order I am unable to have a known by name, is this correct?
Cass - 9-Oct-17 @ 2:41 PM
I understand that a child's legal name has to be used when registering but my question was how to do I go about using a known as name. The father lives in London. (No idea where or who he is employed by) Said our child was dead to him and hasn't seen her since. He wouldn't go to the trouble of taking me to court so that isnt an issue. If he can't pay child support in almost 3 years he isn't going to bother paying court costs for a child he wants nothing to do with. Thank you
Nikki - 4-Oct-17 @ 10:45 PM
Mrs Adams - Your Question:
Hi there. I have 2 daughters from a previous marriage. They are 13 and 9. Their biological father has no contact and has already said in our divorce petition that he will wait to see them when they are 18. He has had no contact from they were 7 and 3I have now got remarried and changed both my daughters surname in their schools- at their request. Is it true that if my daughters are known by my new married name for 5 years then I can change their legal surname without bio Fathers permission? I have no idea where he is, no home address, email or even a contact number.

Our Response:
No that's not true. You need the consent of the biological father to change a child's surname. If you do not know where the father is or he does not consent, you need to apply for a court order to change the names legally.
LawAndParents - 4-Oct-17 @ 2:21 PM
Hi there. I have 2 daughters from a previous marriage. They are 13 and 9. Their biological father has no contact and has already said in our divorce petition that he will wait to see them when they are 18. He has had no contact from they were 7 and 3 I have now got remarried and changed both my daughters surname in their schools- at their request. Is it true that if my daughters are known by my new married name for 5 years then I can change their legal surname without bio Fathers permission? I have no idea where he is, no home address, email or even a contact number.
Mrs Adams - 3-Oct-17 @ 7:17 PM
nikki - Your Question:
Hi my little one is 3. We haven't seen the father since being 7 months old. Has his surname. Can I use a "known as" name at nursery and school (my surname) and how would I do this please? At home we use my surname, never the fathers, and this is the only surname my little one knows of. Thank you

Our Response:
A child’s legal name must be used when registering them at school and if the other parent (finds out and) disagreeswith the ‘known as name’ they can still apply to the court to prevent it.
LawAndParents - 2-Oct-17 @ 3:48 PM
Hi my little one is 3. We haven't seen the father since being 7 months old. Has his surname. Can I use a "known as" name at nursery and school (my surname) and how would I do this please? At home we use my surname, never the fathers, and this is the only surname my little one knows of. Thank you
nikki - 30-Sep-17 @ 4:05 AM
aa17 - Your Question:
Hi my daughters biologic father has had no contact with her since she was 3 she is now 8 , she is known as with my husband surname since she was 4can I change her surname legally by deed poll or do I need to go to court as I need to get her passport done as well

Our Response:
You would need the father's consent in order to change her name by deed poll. If you are unable to contact the father, you will need to apply to the courts.
LawAndParents - 27-Sep-17 @ 10:20 AM
Hi my daughters biologic father has had no contact with her since she was 3 she is now 8 , she is known as with my husband surname since she was 4can I change her surname legally by deed poll or do I need to go to court as I need to get her passport done as well
aa17 - 25-Sep-17 @ 12:23 PM
She- Your Question:
My grandson was born abroad, 4 years ago. He has a Cypriot birth certificate, his mother now wants to get a UK certificate a, without the fathers name on it. They are not married. Is she allowed to do this, also change my grandsons surname.

Our Response:
Where has he lived during life? Is the father a UK citizen? Sorry there's not really enough information for us to answer this.
LawAndParents - 20-Sep-17 @ 2:30 PM
TylersDAD - Your Question:
I have a son Tyler who is 5 nearly 6 this month.his mum had stopped me seeing him I've messaged her everyday to try and see him to which she ignored me for the start of her stopping me it's been nearly 5 months now and she recently messaged me saying she wants me to sign to have his name changed which I declined she won't let me see him and speak to him the only way she will let me have contact is if I sign to have his name changed which I do not want she is blackmailing me what can I do

Our Response:
Your child has a right to contact with his father, the mother should not prevent this or only agree to this on the basis of certain conditions being met. You should try a mediation service to draw up a contact agreement (this can be made legally enforceable by the courts subsequently if necessary). If mediation doesn't work, you can apply to the courts for a Child Arrangements order using the form C100.
LawAndParents - 20-Sep-17 @ 12:07 PM
My grandson was born abroad, 4 years ago. He has a Cypriot birth certificate,his mother now wants to get a UK certificate a, without the fathers name on it. They are not married. Is she allowed to do this,also change my grandsons surname.
She - 20-Sep-17 @ 8:18 AM
I have a son Tyler who is 5 nearly 6 this month...his mum had stopped me seeing him I've messaged her everyday to try and see him to which she ignored me for the start of her stopping me it's been nearly 5 months now and she recently messaged me saying she wants me to sign to have his name changed which I declined she won't let me see him and speak to him the only way she will let me have contact is if I sign to have his name changed which I do not want she is blackmailing me what can I do
TylersDAD - 19-Sep-17 @ 8:09 PM
Billy- Your Question:
Can you help me my daughter is wanting too change her surname can she change her mother married name as l have parent rights thought the courts thank you.

Our Response:
If you as the father have parental responsibility, your consent is required before your daughter's surname can be changed.
LawAndParents - 19-Sep-17 @ 10:30 AM
Can you help me my daughter is wanting too change her surname can she change her mother married name as l have parent rights thought the courts thank you .......
Billy - 17-Sep-17 @ 12:55 AM
Ktlou86 - Your Question:
Hi my son has a current double barrelled surname which was changed by deed poll from just his fathers on his agreements , being mine and my separated partners name. I want to re-marry and take my new partners name and change the part of my sons surname that is my maiden name to my new partners, however his father will not agree this. Can I apply to court on the basis that he already has my surname but obviously as I am changing mine I now wish him to have my new partners as a double barrelled to his fathers?

Our Response:
There is nothing preventing you from applying to courts... we can't say what their decision will be though.
LawAndParents - 15-Sep-17 @ 2:38 PM
Lisa79 - Your Question:
Hi I'm getting married to my partner and my daughters who are not his are asking can they also change their name they are 4 and 8 and they have no contact with their father who is on their birth certificates due to domestic violence, can I apply to have their names changed

Our Response:
You do not have the natural father's consent, you will have to apply for a court order in order to change the names, rather than simply makinga deed poll application.
LawAndParents - 15-Sep-17 @ 11:12 AM
Hi my son has a current double barrelled surname which was changed by deed poll from just his fathers on his agreements , being mine and my separated partners name. I want to re-marry and take my new partners name and change the part of my sons surname that is my maiden name to my new partners, however his father will not agree this. Can I apply to court on the basis that he already has my surname but obviously as I am changing mine I now wish him to have my new partners as a double barrelled to his fathers?
Ktlou86 - 14-Sep-17 @ 4:37 PM
Hi I'm getting married to my partner and my daughters who are not his are asking can they also change their name they are 4 and 8 and they have no contact with their father who is on their birth certificates due to domestic violence, can I apply to have their names changed
Lisa79 - 12-Sep-17 @ 5:47 PM
grandad - Your Question:
My grandchildern ages 10-13 years old wish to change their surname to their mothers. They haven't seen or have any form of contact with their father in over 5-6 years. There is a court order on the father who is legally not allowed physicall contact with them.he's aloud to write or send birthday cards but don't. Due to his drink and drug addiction and violent past he is now living on the streets.How can my grandchildern take their mothers surname.

Our Response:
A court order may be required to change the name officially. It should be a fairly straightforward process if the father is not allowed contact with the children anyway.
LawAndParents - 7-Sep-17 @ 12:48 PM
My grandchildern ages 10-13 years old wish to change their surname to their mothers. They haven't seen or have any form of contact with their father in over 5-6 years. There is a court order on the father who is legally not allowed physicall contact with them.he's aloud to write or send birthday cards but don't. Due to his drink and drug addiction and violent past he is now living on the streets.How can my grandchildern take their mothers surname.
grandad - 5-Sep-17 @ 9:12 PM
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