Information

Changing a child’s surname

This page explains the situations in which a child’s surname can be changed.

A parent is able to change a child’s name by a ‘deed of change of name’ (i.e. deed poll) providing all those with parental responsibility consent to the name change.

Can I change my child’s surname?

A parent is able to change a child under 16’s name by a deed of change of name (i.e. deed poll) providing all those with parental responsibility consent to the name change. This application is made using the Deed poll pack for minors which can be accessed here. For more information please see our information page on Parental Responsibility

What is a deed poll?

A Deed Poll is a legal document which is binding and commits a person to the action set out in the document. By applying for a change of name a person is agreeing to:

  • abandon their former name;
  • use their new name only at all times;
  • have people address them with their new name only. A parent would agree to this on behalf of their child.

You must be 16 or over to make a deed poll.

Please note that the Passport Agency may not accept a deed poll document as evidence of a child’s name change and you should check with them whether a court order is required for this.

Will the birth certificate be changed?

It is unlikely that the original birth certificate will change; the reason for this is that the birth certificate is considered to be a historical record, correct at the time of birth. To change a name legally a parent will have to do this by deed poll.

What will happen once I change my child’s surname by deed poll?

Once an application for a deed poll certificate has been completed and you have received the Deed Poll Document, all the official documents and records can be changed to the new name.

To change the name on official documents and records, the deed poll document will need to be shown as evidence of the name change.

What if I need to show the birth certificate as proof of identification?

If a person is asked to provide proof of identity and they have changed their name by deed poll, they will have to show their birth certificate and deed poll document. The new name on the deed poll document overrides the name on the birth certificate.

What reasons have been considered for a change of name?

  • A parent believes that he or she was prevented from exercising parental responsibility by being deprived of the right to choose the child’s name. For example, a mother claims that she was controlled by the father and prevented by him from exercising her right to parental responsibility enshrined in section 3(1) Children Act 1989 by choosing the child’s name.
  • A parent is distressed by calling the child by the child’s registered name, for instance, a child named after a violent parent. Such distress might impact on the other parent’s ability to care for the child.
  • Safety and protection concerns.
  • It is in the child’s best interests to change his or her name. For example, the child has been known by the given name for a significant period of time and not changing the child’s registered name to the given name would cause the child harm.
  • A parent wishes all the children of the family to have the same surname.

Is it possible to change the child’s surname without the consent of the other parent with parental responsibility?

If a parent with parental responsibility will not consent to the child’s surname being changed then the other parent can apply to the court to ask for permission through a Specific Issue Order. The change of the child’s surname would have to be in the child’s best interests before the court will grant permission. It is something that is taken very seriously by the courts as a child’s surname is considered an integral part of their identity.

If you have a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order, there will usually be a warning attached to it which states that nobody may cause the child to be known by a new surname without the consent of everybody with parental responsibility or the court’s permission. 

What happens if the father has parental responsibility for the child but has no contact and is an absent parent?

It may be possible for a parent to change the child’s surname by deed poll without the other parent’s consent if the other parent’s whereabouts are not known. The parent must have taken reasonable steps to contact the other parent before making an application for a name change, as the deed poll service will want to see evidence that the parent has reasonably tried to make contact.

There may be some restrictions with using the surname if the deed poll service has allowed a change of name without the consent of the absent parent, such as problems at the passport office. If one parent is absent from the child’s life, the other parent has a stronger case of being able to change their surname through the court system anyway so the better approach to take is to seek a Specific Issue Order from the court to change the child’s name.

What can I do if I do not have parental responsibility for my child?

Caselaw has held that when just one person has Parental Responsibility then good practice indicates that the other interested parties, such as a father without parental responsibility, should be contacted and if he disagrees with the name change the matter should be brought to court. If a father without Parental Responsibility later discovers that his child’s surname has been changed he can make an application to the courts to have the change of name reversed. It would also be advisable to apply for a parental responsibility order at the same time.

If the child is under a care order the Local Authority will have parental responsibility and therefore need to consent to any change of name

Are there any restrictions on names?

The deed poll service will not accept an order for a change of name if:

  • it is impossible to pronounce;

  • it includes numbers or symbols;

  • it includes punctuation marks – although you can have a hyphen and an apostrophe;

  • the deed poll service consider it to be vulgar, offensive, blasphemous or unsuitable;

  • it may result in others believing you have a conferred or inherited honour, title or rank;

  • it does not include at least one forename and one surname.

Can a child under the age of 18 change their surname?

If a child or young person under the age of 18 wishes to change his or her surname they will have to obtain the permission of all those with parental responsibility. If one or more of the parental responsibility holders refuse, the child, if granted permission from the courts, can make a further application to ask for the courts permission to change his or her name.

What happens if the child is looked after by the local authority?

If the child is looked after by the local authority, the local authority will have parental responsibility for that child if he or she is under a care order.

This will mean that the local authority will also have to consent to the child’s change of name, and if it refuses, the person wishing to change the child’s name will have to obtain the courts permission.

If a child is voluntarily accommodated by the local authority, the local authority will not have parental responsibility for the child and therefore will not need to consent to a name change. It is only if the child is under a care order that the local authority will have parental responsibility.

Known as or Given Name

Some parents may want their child to be known as a name different to that on their Birth Certificate (their legal name). It is possible for this to happen however a child’s legal name must be used when registering them at schools and doctors for example. If one parent disagrees with the use of the ‘known as name’ then they can apply to the court for an order to stop them doing this.

Changing a child’s official surnameFlowchart

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  • Is the child aged 16 or over?
    • NO
    • YES
    • The child can change their surname themselves by deed poll.
  • Do all those with parental responsibility for the child agree to the name change?
    • NO
    • YES
    • You can agree to change the child’s surname by deed poll.
      (Check with Deed Poll the way in which they require the consent to be given.)
  • You will have to apply for a Specific Issue Order for permission of the court to change the child’s surname.
    Apply using Form C100.
    If granted you can change your child’s surname by deed poll.

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