Changing your child’s surname is an important decision that can feel quite challenging. If you are changing your child’s surname after divorce, it’s important to seek legal advice from a family law solicitor; they can put your mind at ease and support you throughout this process.
How to Change the Surname of a Child
The process of how to change the surname of a child is via deed poll. If your child is under the age of 18, all those with parental responsibility must agree to the change in surname. A Court Order will be required to enrol the change in surname at the Royal Courts of Justice and notify The Gazette.
When changing a child’s name, be aware that it is sometimes more likely to be successful if you don’t try to remove a surname. For example, say your ex-partner’s surname was Smith and yours was Jones. If the child was named Lee Smith, you may want to change their name to Lee Smith-Jones when they are younger, and then just to Lee Jones once they are older and can voice a preference.
The child’s age is also a factor when considering how to change the surname of your child. If the child is under five years old, a judge is less likely to allow a name change, especially if the surname is of their other parent. As they are so young, the surname is unlikely to be having an emotional impact on their lives and to remove the surname would sever a link to their other parent.
When the child reaches eleven, the judge will take their view on the matter into account, and at fourteen, the child’s views will be paramount.
If your child is sixteen or seventeen years old, they have the choice to allow those with parental responsibility to change their name for them or follow the deed poll process themselves.
Parental responsibility means the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority by law a parent has for their child. This involves making important decisions for a child, such as the rights and duties regarding education, choice of religion, medical details, and the right to change the surname of the child.
Can I Change my Child’s Surname after Divorce if the Other Parent has Parental Responsibility?
A divorce doesn’t remove parental responsibility. Before you can think about how to change the surname of the child, you must obtain the consent of anyone with parental responsibility, including your ex-partner.
If they consent to the change of forename or surname, the consent must be provided in writing so that the necessary documentation can be drafted.
However, if the other parent does not consent to the name change, you would need to apply to the Court for permission to change your child’s name. The Court would then decide whether it was in your child’s best interests for the name change to take place.
Can I Change the Surname of my Child if I have Parental Responsibility?
If you have sole parental responsibility, you will be able to change your child’s name without anyone else’s consent or Court approval. However, you will still need to seek legal advice from a solicitor to make a formal deed to change their name.
Having said this, it is important to note that where an unmarried father has frequent contact with his child and the child’s mother has sole parental responsibility, the father may, in certain circumstances, be able to challenge or reverse the name change.
Can I Change the Surname of my Child if the Person with Parental Responsibility is Absent?
In certain situations, parental responsibility can be removed by a Court Order in order to change the surname of the child without consent from an absent parent. For example, if the child’s father has been absent from the child’s life for numerous years, parental responsibility can be removed to change the child’s surname.
In this example, the absent father’s location must be unknown. In addition, they mustn’t have contributed financially in recent years, and the child’s mother must have tried to contact the father multiple times without success.
Can I Change Their Birth Certificate?
Changing a child’s surname via deed poll does not change it on their birth certificate. The birth certificate is considered a record that is correct at the time of birth. Nevertheless, changing your child’s name via deed poll will change it on all official records and documentation.
You can change their birth certificate if the birth is re-registered or if you need to issue a correction (for example, if a paternity test has proven that the named father is not the biological father),
‘Known As’ Names
If you are going through the process of legally changing your child’s name or if you are waiting until your child is older to change their name, you could change their ‘known as’ name in the meantime. Many schools and GPs will offer the option of registering a ‘known as’ name – while the child’s legal name will still be on official documentation, their teacher will refer to them with their known name, and it will appear on some less official documentation.
If you wish to discuss how to change the surname of your child after a divorce, or if you believe your ex-partner has changed your child’s surname, please get in touch with the family team at Newtons Solicitors for specialist legal advice. We offer a first-class approach to child law, understanding that it can be a difficult and upsetting time.