Can I change my child’s name?

Posted on: August 21st, 2017

Last week the Family Court ruled in favour of a mother wanting to change her child’s middle name, against the wishes of the father. 

Frequently we are asked about changing a child’s name, often their surname when a parent has remarried and whether or not the other parent needs to consent.  The simple answer is that yes, a child’s name can be changed in some circumstances.  The most straightforward situation is where all parties with parental responsibility consent to the change of name, in which case a simple change of name deed (often referred to as a deed poll) can be executed. 

What if both parents don’t consent?  This is a common situation, and the issue that the court was faced with when asked to consider the proposed change to the child’s middle name recently.  In this situation you would have to ask the court to make an order, known as a specific issue order, allowing the child’s name to be changed.  The court will take into consideration a variety of factors when considering a change of name deed with the primary concern being the child’s welfare and whether the proposed change is in the child’s best interests. 

It is not easy to obtain one of these orders and the court does take a strict approach when asked to make that decision.  A name is an intrinsic part of a child’s identity and often, enables a child to identify and feel part of their paternal family after a divorce or separation.  It is often when a mother has re-married or reverted to their maiden name that the question of the child’s name is raised.  The court will look very closely at the circumstances of the individual case.  Does the child have a relationship with their father? How close is that relationship?  What will be the impact on the child if the name is not hanged?  These are important questions that the court will ask when considering whether to change a child’s name and make a decision as to whether changing a child’s name is in its best interests or not. 

Unless all those with parental responsibility agree, there is no simple answer as to whether a court will allow a child’s name to be changed and it will very much depend on the circumstances.  Before tkain any action to change a child’s name you should seek legal advice.  The family team at Coffin Mew are experienced in dealing with legal disputes concerning children and would be happy to discuss changing a child’s name with you.