Following a divorce or separation you may no longer want to be known by your previous name and if your children carry a different surname than your own, you may decide to change that too. Family law expert Angela Taylor at Malcolm C Foy & Co in Doncaster, clarifies the process for changing the name of an adult and the consents required for changing the name of a child.
Changing your own name is a relatively straightforward process. You can simply start using the new name that you want to be known by, but you may need official evidence that you have changed your name to get your passport or driving licence changed.
The most accepted way to change your name is by a ‘change of name deed poll’. You declare that you are abandoning your previous name, that you will use your new name at all times and that you require other people to address you by your new name only.
We will prepare the deed for you, which you will sign and have witnessed at our offices. For additional security, we can enroll the deed poll at the central office of the Supreme Court for safe keeping. We will give you certified copies to present to your bank, the DVLA, the passport agency, your employer and for any other official reason.
Changing a child’s name can be trickier, depending on the age of the child and whether both parents consent.
Children aged 16 or 17 have to apply to change their own name by deed poll and parental consent is not required.
For children under 16, every person who holds parental responsibility must consent to the change of name.
Mothers and married fathers automatically have parental responsibility. Unmarried fathers can acquire parental responsibility in a range of ways, including by:
agreement with the mother or any other person who holds parental responsibility;
a court order; or
if the child is born in England or Wales after 1 December 2003, being named on the birth certificate.
This means that when the child’s parents have been married or have parental responsibility, they both need to consent to the child’s change of name especially if they have regular contact with the child. If one parent is absent and their whereabouts are unknown, it is still possible to change your child’s name. Your solicitor will explain the procedure and write a letter in support of your application.
Where only one parent has parental responsibility, that parent can change the child’s name without the consent of the other. However, unmarried fathers who did not have parental responsibility have successfully persuaded the court to reverse the change of their child’s name, so it is always advisable to try and come to an agreement where possible. An accredited family law mediation service can be a cost-effective route to settling family disagreements.
If one of the parents with parental responsibility does not consent to the child's name being changed then you can apply to the Family Court for permission to change the child's name.
When making its decision the court will take into account:
the importance of maintaining a link between the unmarried father and the child;
whether the change is in the child's best interests; and
the views of the child, depending on their age.
Once the change of name has been completed we will give you certified copies of the change of name deed poll for the child’s school, GP and passport application.
If you would like more information about changing a name, parental responsibility, family mediation or any other family law matter please contact Cath Freeman or Taz Singh at Malcolm C Foy & Co in Doncaster on 01302 340005.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.