Following separation or divorce you may wish to change your child’s surname. In most cases it is the mother who reverts back to her maiden-name and wishes for her child/children to carry this name, in some instances a mother could get remarried to a new partner and choose to take her partners surname. To establish a family unit where everybody operates under one name, or simply to make matters more straightforward, the preferred arrangement may be for the child to take on the new surname. It is quite rare for a father to demand a name change following a split if the child was named after it’s mother on the birth certificate.
In order to change the name of a child who is under eighteen years of age, all those holding parental responsibility must give their consent to the name change.
However, under special circumstances, or through a court order, a parent can sometimes change their child’s name without gaining consent from all those with parental responsibility.
If the child’s father holds parental responsibility for the child, unless he has been absent for a substantial period, his consent will need to be gained before the child’s name is changed. Without the father’s permission, the only way to ensure that records such as a child’s passport are updated into the new name is to obtain an order from the courts. Such an order would give the child’s mother permission to go about a legal name change for her child, without the fathers consent.
Then send the forms and relevant documents to the following address:
Queen’s Bench Division
The Royal Courts of Justice
What if the child’s father is absent?
When a child’s father is absent and holds parental responsibility, problems naturally arise when trying to gain his consent for a name change. In this situation, it may be possible for a mother to change her child’s name by Deed Poll without the fathers consent or a court order.
Please note that the whereabouts of the father must be unknown and the child’s mother must have taken sufficient steps to contact him before making an application for a name change.
When you receive your child’s Deed Poll document and start sending it of to the relevant organisations, you will need to enclose a covering letter giving details of your situation. This should explain your attempts to contact the child’s father, how long he has been absent for and how he is no longer a part of your child’s life. It should also mention that no financial contributions are made to the child’s upbringing and other details of a general lack of involvement.
Please note that in this situation, where consent has not been obtained, there is a high chance that not all official record holders such as the Identity and Passport Service will accept the name change. For this reason, we advise that you attempt to obtain a court order when changing the name of a child with whom an absent father is involved.
The only way to ensure that the name change will be accepted is by obtaining a court order. If the father has been absent for several years you shouldn’t have any difficulty obtaining a court order giving you permission to change your child’s name without the father with parental responsibility giving his consent.
Applying for a Court Order
Before downloading the forms and submitting, we suggest you read the advice given on gov.uk on applying for the court order: click here
Whether or not a court order is obtained will depend on a variety of factors. However, as in all other disputes relating to children, the court has always had regard to the welfare of the child involved as its paramount consideration.
Send your form to your nearest court that deals with child cases.
It costs £215 to apply for a court order. You may be able to get help with court fees if you’re on benefits or a low income.
Once a court order has been obtained, the child’s mother can start the process of legally changing the name for her son/daughter. When filling in the application form for a Deed Poll the child’s mother should apply as if she held sole parental responsibility for her child. This is simply because by issuing the court order, the court has in effect over-ruled the father’s rights as regards the name change.
By providing both a Deed Poll document showing the child’s change of name, along with a copy of the court order, there should be no problems with changing the name on a child records, including their passport.
More Information for if you are applying to the courts:
Contact between father and child
The amount of contact a father has with his child will be a primary factor in deciding whether or not a court order is granted. If a father maintains regular contact, including meeting up with his son/daughter weekly and acknowledging birthdays etc, it will be far more difficult to convince the court that it is in the child’s best interests to remove his surname.
However, in the case of an absent father the outcome would often be different. A father can be considered absent if he no longer plays any part in the child’s life. This could mean that he has not been in contact for several years – no visits, birthday or Christmas cards, or recognition of any kind. In such a situation it is far easier to convince a court that with no contact from the father for such a long period of time, it would be in the child’s best interests to dissociate from him altogether. Court orders allowing a change of name are then obtained relatively easily.
Contributions made by the father
Financial contributions made by the father to the child or child’s mother will also be considered. By being of financial support the father is playing an active role in his son/daughter’s life and will gain recognition for this. Courts will be less inclined to remove a fathers surname in such cases.
On the other hand fathers who pay no maintenance cost at all, will be looked upon less favourably and thus increase the chances of a court order being granted.
The child’s opinion and age
Since the primary concern throughout would be the best interests of the child, if she or he was capable of expressing his or her own views they must be taken into account. It has been observed that the exercise of parental responsibility is limited when children reach an age at which they have sufficient understanding to make decisions about their own future. Such is the case that if a child of fourteen+ years of age, felt strongly about the decision of a name change, their views would hold substantial weight in a court of law.
While the courts have not identified a specific age at which children are considered adequately mature, it follows that the older the child, the greater the weight that will be attached to their opinions. Therefore, if an older child rejects the idea of having their surname changed from that of their father, it is unadvisable to attempt to get a court order. In such a case the court will invariably question a mother’s motive for the name change.