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31 Changing Your Name - Updated version available October 16

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1 Introduction

2. When may I want to change my name?

3. When am I allowed to change my name?

4. What if I want to change my child's name?

You don’t need to follow a special legal process to change a child’s name. However, certain people must agree to the new name. If you don’t get their agreement before you change your child’s name, they could start court proceedings to stop you changing the child’s name or to make you change it back.

When can I change my child’s birth certificate?

The easiest way to formally change a child’s name is to change their birth certificate, but you can do this only in certain circumstances. These include:

  • changing your child’s forename within 12 months of originally registering the birth, perhaps because you decide the original name was not suitable;
  • changing the child’s surname because you marry their other parent after the child is born; and
  • changing the child’s surname if you were not married when you registered their birth and did not include the father’s name on the register. In this case both parents must agree to the change of name. 

Who must agree before a child’s name can be changed?

Everyone who has ‘parental responsibility’ for a child needs to give their consent if you want to change your child’s name.

When a child is born, the mother automatically has parental responsibility. So does the father, but only if he is married to the mother when the child is born, or if he is registered as the father on the baby’s birth certificate (for births registered on or after 1 December 2003). However, later in the child’s life, the unmarried father of the child can get parental responsibility, by:

  • marrying the child’s mother;
  • making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother;
  • re-registering the child’s birth to record the father’s name; or 
  • obtaining a parental responsibility or residence order from the court.

Adoptive parents get parental responsibility when they adopt their child.

Even if the father doesn’t have parental responsibility, the child’s mother should still try to get his consent before changing the child’s name. In some cases, the courts have allowed a father without parental responsibility who is in frequent contact with his child to reverse a change of name.  

If, against a parent’s wishes, a child under 18 doesn’t want the change of name, he or she can apply for a court order to stop it. The court will assess whether the child is mature enough to understand the consequences of this, and will take the child's view into account in making its decision. The court will normally accept the wishes of a child who is 16 or 17.

If the other parent or anyone else objects to you changing your child’s name, they can apply to the court to try to stop it. If this happens, you will need advice from a solicitor. You may be able to get help with the costs of this if you and your case qualify – ask your solicitor. 

In deciding whether to allow the change of name, the court will consider what is in the child’s best interests, including the social implications of the change. In particular, they will ask how important it is for the child to keep their existing name as a link with their father. 

5. What sort of name can I choose?

6. How do I prove I have a new name?

7. Who should I tell about my name change?

8. Further help

9. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Citizens Advice.

The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.

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