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Changing a Child's Surname

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 21 May 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]
Penny - Your Question:
Hi a question my son has fathers surname and my surname as his middle name but dad has married and had children my son is desperate to have names swapped around so dads as middle name and same surname as me and his sister but dad refuses anything I can do

Our Response:
Not really if the father doesn't consent, but you could change it so it's a double barrelled name or make sure that the middle name is considered a surname. That way, the end bit could "drop off" eventually by people he deals with, if not on official documents.
LawAndParents - 22-May-17 @ 2:41 PM
Hi a question my son has fathers surname and my surname as his middle name but dad has married and had children my son is desperate to have names swapped around so dads as middle name and same surname as me and his sister but dad refuses anything I can do
Penny - 21-May-17 @ 4:03 PM
Hi I have a 10 year old daughter with my ex partner who remarried and has two children with new husband. I'm on the birth certificate and see my daughter weekly by court order. My daughter has her mothers surname on birth certificate(which I didn't agree with). She asked me weeks ago to change my daughters surname to her husbands (she has changed it at school,doctors etc years ago without my consent) and gets my child to call her new husband dad from when they met. She asked 3 weeks ago and because I haven't said yes I have a threatening solicitors letter saying I have 3 weeks to agree or it's going to costs and all costs will be seeked to be met by me. My daughter has told me she wants to change her name but also told mum she wanted my surname last year and her mum said to wait till she was older. I've told my daughter the same but have been told she will seek my daughter to speak in court telling the judge she wants step fathers name is this right ?
Deeks - 20-May-17 @ 1:15 PM
Hi , i need ur help. Just want to ask if i can still change the surname of my son ?He carry the last name of his stepdad. But now were not together . Can i change it back to my last name ? What are the process
Jeiz - 17-May-17 @ 8:54 PM
Mel - Your Question:
Hi, can I register a child at school using one half of their double barrelled surname. E.g. Given name John Smith-Doe. name used at school John Doe.

Our Response:
Only with the consent of the other parent with parental responsibility.
LawAndParents - 12-May-17 @ 9:48 AM
Hi, can I register a child at school using one half of their double barrelled surname. E.g. Given name John Smith-Doe.... name used at school John Doe.
Mel - 10-May-17 @ 3:40 PM
B - Your Question:
Hi I'm just wondering how to go about my child's name, he is currently registered as his dad's surname but me and his father are not together and I was wondering so I have to have consent from him to add my surname onto the end so it becomes double barrelled? It would be so much easier when registering him with thing as we would have the same name then Thanks

Our Response:
Yes as long as you do not remove his father's name from your child's completely, this is not an issue.
LawAndParents - 9-May-17 @ 1:59 PM
Hi I'm just wondering how to go about my child's name, he is currently registered as his dad's surname but me and his father are not together and I was wondering so I have to have consent from him to add my surname onto the end so it becomes double barrelled? It would be so much easier when registering him with thing as we would have the same name then Thanks
B - 8-May-17 @ 12:14 PM
My ex wife changed my son and daughters names without my consent even though she knew how to contact me and I was seeing the children regularly although this ceased some year or two before the name changes. My ex wife would have made some kind of declaration at the time. Has an offence been committed?
aparent - 29-Apr-17 @ 12:38 AM
Bessie- Your Question:
Hi I have a 10 year old son whom hasn't seen his dad since he was 2 he's made no attempt to contact him he actually went to jail for assaulting me and is a violent man I'm now with my new partner off 8 years whom I get married to next year my son calls him dad and nows no other I've applied for a court order but not sure if they contact his real dad I'm petrified he contests it purely to spite me he's not a nice person and don't want him in my sons life any advice would be great thank you

Our Response:
The courts will contact the natural father to ask for consent for a name change. The background may or may not affect the decision.
LawAndParents - 24-Apr-17 @ 12:44 PM
Hi I have a 10 year old son whom hasn't seen his dad since he was 2 he's made no attempt to contact him he actually went to jail for assaulting me and is a violent man I'm now with my new partner off 8 years whom I get married to next year my son calls him dad and nows no other I've applied for a court order but not sure if they contact his real dad I'm petrified he contests it purely to spite me he's not a nice person and don't want him in my sons life any advice would be great thank you
Bessie - 23-Apr-17 @ 10:10 AM
My 11 yr old daughter we have changed her name by deed pole to howarth She has always been known at school as howarth she starting high school Will her exams from the government come in howarth or in her birth surname Who do I have to contact I've done her passport Doctors dentist etc It's just her national insurance number I'm struggling knowing the right people to phone or forms to fill in
Lamb - 13-Apr-17 @ 2:26 PM
Bobbie - Your Question:
Hello, please can you help me? I have spoke with my ex about adding my surname to my son's name (so his surname is double barrelled). He never provides a clear answer. How would you advise me to proceed as he has PR? Thank you in advance.

Our Response:
As you are not removing the father's name, this should not be an issue and you should be able to make the change by deed poll quite easily.
LawAndParents - 10-Apr-17 @ 2:06 PM
Hello, please can you help me? I have spoke with my ex about adding my surname to my son's name (so his surname is double barrelled). He never provides a clear answer. How would you advise me to proceed as he has PR? Thank you in advance.
Bobbie - 7-Apr-17 @ 5:08 PM
Hi My husband was previously married and in that marriage he brought up a child who was not biologically his, they applied for a passport and didn't want the daughter to find out she wasn't really his so they went to the court and sat in front of a panel who gave them some kind of an order to sendoff with the passport application to allow the daughters surname to show as his. The daughters mom has since passed away and we are needing to do things that require birth certificate and passport evidence.It wasn't done by deed poll...,have you got any idea what kind of order would have been given??
SD - 6-Apr-17 @ 12:32 PM
Lee - Your Question:
Hi I have been with my partner for nearly 6 years we have a 3 year old son together also I have a 10 year old daughter to another man but my partner as took my daughter on as is own daughter my daughter biological dad as died and we are wanting to give my daughter her step dad last name but also keep her biological dad last name too how can we do this

Our Response:
You can change her name by deed poll. Here is where to download the forms
LawAndParents - 21-Mar-17 @ 12:23 PM
Hi I have been with my partner for nearly 6 years we have a 3 year old son together also I have a 10 year old daughter to another man but my partner as took my daughter on as is own daughter my daughter biological dad as died and we are wanting to give my daughter her step dad lastname but also keep her biological dad last name too how can we do this
Lee - 18-Mar-17 @ 3:40 PM
My ex has changed my sons name legally without my permission and I have only just found out, I see my son regularly and have always been available to contact as she knows where I live.what can I do about this?
Dave - 25-Feb-17 @ 7:58 PM
Hi I have a daughter who is 10 in march her biological father walked away when she was 2 nearly 3 and no contact has been made since. I have since met my former partner who has brought up my daughter and supported her I tryed many ways to contact her biological father about change of name and never had anything back other than a message from a family member stating her biological father has already told me he wants nothing to do with my or my daughter now iv changed her name by depol but im having trouble with her passport I cant afford court right now n iv still no contact details for her biological father any advice on what I can do x
jenna - 14-Feb-17 @ 5:05 PM
I'm separated from my kids father since 2009 n he's not allowed to see the kids I want to changed my kids dads last name to mine without his permission ??
Shaz - 27-Jan-17 @ 10:39 PM
My daughter is 2 and a half but hasn't seen her dad in 2 years, she currently has his surname but I now want it double barrelled but he will only give permission if his name is last without a hyphen. If this was to happen then would it still be possible for my surname to be classed as everything for her? (I know full surname will have to be on official documents) but I've heard people say that they class the first surname as more of a middle name, I just wanted to know if I would have problems since it was be the end name.
Kay - 25-Jan-17 @ 3:04 PM
Mhairi- Your Question:
My ex partner made me double barrel my surname when I became pregnant with our first child and I refused to abort. When we registered our son I didn't realise he had put just his surname and he then said that the child would be known as the double barrelled name I went by. He wouldn't change it officially and my life became awful as he changed from a man who spoilt me to a very aggressive controlling person. I eventually got pregnant and she was given the double barrelled name and again he refused to pay for my son's that day saying I hadn't been good enough by the time she was born we were already separating. When we eventually separated both children were known just as mine we all dropped his name he agreed to this at the school. However 5 year's on the school my children are now are threatening me to change my 11 year old son's back to just his can this happen after 11 year's?

Our Response:
The school cannot change your children's name from the name they are "known as" but their registered names are those that need to be on all official forms etc. You can change the names easily by deed poll if their father consents to it. Here's the link to the government website where you can download the application form.
LawAndParents - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:32 AM
Djtrump - Your Question:
Hi gradually my ex has poisoned my son against me and I havent seen him in months and he doesnt want to see me and ive recently heard hes maybe changing his name to her name. Is it true both parents have to consent or can a judge rule it. No way am I going to court as im still paying of the last nightmare? Also ive paid faithfully from the day she walked, but if she did change his nane will I still be responsible fir csa payments?

Our Response:
Your consent is needed before his name can be changed assuming you have parental responsibility (see the above article to check). If you do not give your consent your ex partner can apply for a court order to change it but she will have to explain her reasons for the change and that you have refused consent. If his name is changed, you still have to pay maintenance as he's your child.
LawAndParents - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:28 AM
Lana - Your Question:
My daughter fell pregnant at the age of 14. And doesnt know who the father is. My husband and I took the baby because she didnt want him. His 5 years old now and we want to change is surname to ours for she has a other surname. How can we do it without father consent for we dont know who he is and our son only knows us as his parents and our surname to not my daughters. Please give advise thank you

Our Response:
If you have parental responsibility you can apply to change the name by deed poll. Here's where you can download the application form
LawAndParents - 11-Jan-17 @ 10:25 AM
My ex partner made me double barrel my surname when I became pregnant with our first child and I refused to abort. When we registered our son I didn't realise he had put just his surname and he then said that the child would be known as the double barrelled name I went by. He wouldn't change it officially and my life became awful as he changed from a man who spoilt me to a very aggressive controlling person.I eventually got pregnant and she was given the double barrelled name and again he refused to pay for my son's that day saying I hadn't been good enough by the time she was born we were already separating. ... When we eventually separated both children were known just as mine we all dropped his namehe agreed to this at the school. However 5 year's on the school my children are now are threatening meto change my 11 year old son's back to just his can this happen after 11 year's?
Mhairi - 8-Jan-17 @ 12:27 PM
Hi gradually my ex has poisoned my son against me and i havent seen him in months and he doesnt want to see me and ive recently heard hes maybe changing his name to her name. Is it true both parents have to consent or can a judge rule it. No way am i going to court as im still paying of the last nightmare? Also ive paid faithfully from the day she walked, but if she did change his nane will i still be responsible fir csa payments?
Djtrump - 6-Jan-17 @ 4:21 PM
My daughter fell pregnant at the age of 14. And doesnt know who the father is. My husband and i took the baby because she didnt want him. His 5 years old now and we want to change is surname to ours for she has a other surname. How can we do it without father consent for we dont know who he is and our son only knows us as his parents and our surname to not my daughters. Please give advise thank you
Lana - 6-Jan-17 @ 6:35 AM
To whom it may concern: My son currently carries my last name. My father brought it to my attention that I need to consider adding or changing my son's last name to his deceased Father's name since his father was an only child and he is a male. My son is 10 years old. It is something that I want to do, how should I go about actually changing or adding his last name. Thanks in advance. Tonya.
Tonya - 10-Dec-16 @ 6:21 PM
Can I change my sons surname to mine on his birth certificate with his father's permission
jo - 17-Nov-16 @ 7:35 PM
Jessica - Your Question:
I have 13yr old twin daughters. I was 18 when they were born and foolishly thought their father would always be a part of their life and gave them his last name. 3 months after their birth we split and he never even came around to visit them unless his mother forced him to. He hasn't seen them since they were a year old and don't even know where he is nor do I receive child support payments from him! My daughters have recently expressed their desire to change their last name to my own. Do I need his permission to change their last names if he's never been a part of their lives?

Our Response:
If you cannot get his consent, you will need to apply for a court order (C100) to have their names changed.
LawAndParents - 15-Nov-16 @ 10:02 AM
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