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Changing a Child's Surname

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 12 Sep 2023 | 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]
I had a daughter with a married lady who was separated from her husband back in 1986. When she christened the child what choices did she have. My name was was not put on birth certificate. She gave my daughter her husbands surname. Legally could she have still given my daughter my surname.
Blue boy - 12-Sep-23 @ 8:42 PM
I have a court order for my grandsons I have residency and legal guardian dad has not paid or seen them in a yrcsn I legally change there surname
Didi - 5-Jan-21 @ 2:34 PM
I want to change my parents. They said to me that they are not letting me go, I thought a mother chooses what is best for me and they cannot happy for me if i chose my college more than my parents. They are really silly and now it makes me silly so that I will get in trouble with my college. I know it is my choice but I will get told off, shouted at and getting hurt as well.
Klloyd - 19-Nov-20 @ 6:18 PM
Hi I have a daughter who's surname is inder her real dad surname but we dont have any contact to the real dad anymore and it's been3years now. Im hettong married to my new partner this upcomong year amd we are planning to possible change the last name of my first born child to the last name of my partner. Do i need to first ask my partner to legally adopt my kid before changing last name or can i already file change last name ?
Rox - 29-Jul-20 @ 7:54 AM
I have two children with my ex wife, our oldest child was born out of wedlock and has both my ex wife and my surname, with my surname being first. Some years (2/3) after the birth of our first child my ex wife and I were married. During the pregnancy of our second child my ex wife and I agreed to change our first child's surname ( as our second child would have just my surname) so we would all share the same family name, which would have to be done via deed poll. My ex wife and I seperated shortly after the birth of our second child and never had the opportunity to change our first child's surname. My ex wife has filed for our second child's surname to be changed and include her maiden name as our first child. How likely are the courts grant my ex wife's request?
CeeJay - 14-Jul-20 @ 11:20 PM
my sister has two children with her ex partner, he is about8/9 years older than her, she was only 16 & 17 when she had them both, he and his family pressured her into giving them his surname "because its traditional" (funny really, as their situation was far from traditional), he forced her to give the children his name and wouldn't allow her to double barrel the surname. He has since had another child who does have a double barrel surname (ironic I know), he still will not allow her to change their name to allow them to have their identity with the family they most associate with, he has been in and out of their lives because of drugs, drink and his new partner, would she have any chance of being able to change their name in court?
Sophie - 8-Jun-20 @ 6:26 PM
I have a 10 month old and the father has not had any contact or paying for him since a month old and now I have a court order on his dad am I able to drop his surname off as my sons last name is mine then his “dads” is this possible?
Shabba - 29-Apr-20 @ 4:27 PM
My child has a double barrel surname, my surname first (mum) then his fathers with no hyphen. He is all so on my child’s birth certificate. My child’s father surname is NOT from his biological father his mum married and he took the same surname as his mother and siblings, so they would be the same. I want my son to have my surname and carry it on to the next generation. i disagree my child could be carrying someone eles surname to his next generation? Who is not biological his grandfather or blood
Ringo - 6-Mar-20 @ 8:25 AM
I have a 8 years old daughter who is not in contact with her father. She has the same surname as her father. Can I add another surname to the current surname without her father consent? for example: her current name is Lisa BOLD I want to changed it to Lisa BOLD JONES or Lisa JONES BOLD Thanks
Emma - 27-Feb-20 @ 2:33 PM
I am a Father of a 4 year old, i pay for him and have a shared care agreement, i have him for 5 days a week and now when the Mother doesnt get her own way or doesnt agree to something said then im threatened to not seeing him again, now she suddenly wants to change his surname to a double barrelled one because she didnt like the time of drop off on his Birthday. She now wants to go to court as i dont give consent to a double barrelled surname
Father - 9-Feb-20 @ 9:35 PM
I have 2 grandchildren 1 with residency order and the 10 month old with sgo eldest one has mums surname youngest has different dad and his surname can i apply to the courts to get youngest one same surname as her older sister (not my surname) neither parents agree but i believe it is the best thing for youngeat child
Laura - 28-Dec-19 @ 8:42 PM
Hi, i have a son who is 7 years and he have his fathers surname and i want want tochange it he cant even support my son am struggle with his surname my aunt was needed to take my son to oversea for schooling there as am an orphan bu she coudnt coz of his surname and am worried i dont know what to do help me and its how much to change the surname to be mine without his father as i dont know where his father is
Shazz - 7-Dec-19 @ 10:31 AM
Hi there I have separated from partner and have 2 boys and she has full custody but I still keep in contact with them with tea and phone but now she has been remarried and I think she has changed my boys last name without me knowing and I’ve only just found out what can I do
Parso - 29-Nov-19 @ 9:56 PM
Pls help,I want to know that,what can I do in other to change my daughter's father's surname to mine coz, he's not supporting the child en he's married to another woman has he's own family en the most painful thing is that when he met my daughteron the road or Street doesn't even great her or say hello but my daughter still carrying his surname so I want to change that surname to mine,en I want to know how much it cost?
Nelly - 29-Oct-19 @ 11:37 PM
I have 3 kids in long term foster care they all have the same surname but their dad has past away would I be able to change my girls surnames to my surname? If so how would I go about it ? X
Liza - 4-Sep-19 @ 6:14 PM
I am a father of a 4 year old son, and , I’m wasn’t married to my previous partner but I was on the birth certificate. How would I know if she has changed his surname ?
Carlos - 15-Aug-19 @ 10:03 AM
Hi I was wondering xsn I change my children surname even though they don't see there father he doesn't pay for them and the court won't let him see them at the moment because he has acholc problems and wondered where k stand with this please
Kee - 19-Jul-19 @ 3:40 PM
Just a quick question. My daughter dad is classed as medium risk towards adults and children he doesn't have contact at all with my daughter she's 4 this month and was wondering how I change my daughter's surname as she has her dad's and I would like her to have mine as I'm now married and he's like a dad to her I don't know his whereabouts or have his contact details.
Kia - 2-May-19 @ 8:34 PM
My ex took me to court for more access to the children but the court did not put any order in place due to his actions and agreed with me that it needs to stay flexible. He now ignores the children and looks as if the novelty is wearing off. Can I change my youngests so she is the same as myself and her 2 sisters ?
Lise - 21-Apr-19 @ 12:15 PM
My grandson is 15, he hasn't had any contact with his father in 10yrs. He wants to change his surname to his mums. She changed hers to mine but was in her 20's. Is there any way he/we can change it legally. His dad was violent to my daughter, we know where he is but really don't want to have to contact him... He has 6 other kids so is not interested in my grandson.
Squidge - 21-Feb-19 @ 11:35 AM
My daughter has expressed that she wants to take my partner name and drop her dad's surname. He won't agree this and she is becoming quite distressed. Is there anyway I can change it without his permission? My partner and I plan to marry soon and my daughter wants our surname so she is the same. She also gets bullied for her current surname
Lil - 17-Feb-19 @ 9:05 PM
My son had 2 kids to a married woman and the children was registered in her name (married name) and my sons name as a double barrel after a big battle in court it was my son then her name but now she devorsedher husband and gone back to her maiden name but the children are still know by his name they now both parents want to drop her married name from kids how do they go about it without courts and costs
Cmaria - 9-Jan-19 @ 9:57 PM
My ex has changed our childs last name to hers and done so without my consent. I am on the birth cert. and have always paid maintenance for our child since we separated, she moved quite a distance away and I work most days and have bills to pay like any other person which makes it difficult to travel to see our child, however i have never been out of contact with them to speak and video call. Having found this out about her changing his name I am unaware of how she has done this and if it is in fact legal. I need advice on what I can do or if I can do anything.
Adam - 4-Jan-19 @ 10:47 PM
Hi, my son is 3 years old and always resided with me (his mother). I was with my child’s father for 8 years and at time of our child registration, I was informed that as my child’s father was present, he held more ‘say’ at my child’s surname. I have always wanted to have his name double barrelled, but did not know how to go about it. My query is can I just add my surname to that of my child’s (fathers) name without applying for a deedpol & would this be legally recognised? I am applying for schools and need to know where I stand with this. Thanks
Dee - 4-Jan-19 @ 5:48 PM
I am married but not to the mother of daughter she's 13 turning 14 in January ,the mother is not married staying with her parents my daughter is using their surname,, but the mothers father is not biological , is a step father, my daughter is using his surname and I am not feeling comfortable about it , I want her to use mine what should I do without hurting the child
Robert - 28-Dec-18 @ 3:40 PM
Hi just asking on behalf of my daughter her son goes by her surname at school and he does not want to be is father name no more and also suffer from disability just want to help him what can we do to change it. He been with this surname since he started school he now in year 4.
Griff - 27-Sep-18 @ 9:02 PM
I have a daughter 8 years old,she is illigetamet but she bring his father surname,but the father no contact after he sign the RA 9255,.I want to remove his surname in the birth certificate of my daughter and take my surname.
Adel - 24-Sep-18 @ 4:46 AM
My daugther is nearly 4 and tells everyone her name is her mum surname not her legal name. I feel she can call herself what she wants. He spends his time correcting it.Also threateningme with court
Rjk - 13-Sep-18 @ 4:20 PM
My son is now 19. He has got it into his head that a foreign sounding name (like his mothers maiden name - Pejica) is cooler than his birth surname - my English surname. If my son changes his surname, then I am legally correct to deduce he is not my son - legally, as he has taken another mans surname, and the legal father would in fact be his grandfather on his mothers side. Is he effectively adopted ? This has very far reaching ramifications in my view. For example. If he is not my legally son, then, in the case of divorce, I am not liable for any maintenance payments etc. Please advise.
will - 17-Aug-18 @ 10:01 PM
Hi My son's are 15 and 12, they have not seen their dad since approx 2009/2010. From 2002 to 2010 the boys dad was abusive (majority of that time we were not together, he was controlling and kept coming round (how I ended up having both boys) despite his abuse I was civil because of the children)) there had also been arranged visits via solicitorsthat he failed to keep up. I moved away as a final straw in 2012. He applied for access to see the boys but was denied by court due to his abusive history. What is bugging me is their middle names that I only agreed to because I felt pressured into what he wanted, I also had no one telling me that I didn't have to have his surname on the certificate.Can I add my surname before their dad's surname rather than eliminate it (elimination part would be their decision or the boys have asked to adopt my current partner or 3 years surname) and can I change their middle names? As mentioned before boys do not have contact with their dad due to court saying no.
Purplelight - 8-Aug-18 @ 6:30 AM
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