Changing a child’s surname

This information page will explain the process to change a child’s name via deed poll. This includes the requirement to obtain consent and the options available if consent is not forthcoming. 

What is a deed poll? 

A deed poll is a legal document that proves a change of name. A person with parental responsibility for a child is able to change any part of that child’s name. For example, a person with PR can change a child’s forename, surname (or both), add names, remove names, and change the spelling of their name. 

What is a “known as” name?

It is important to recognise the distinction between a child’s legal name and, if applicable, their ”known as” name. A child’s legal name will be the name on their birth certificate which is used for legal, administrative and official purposes. A child’s legal name can only be changed via deed poll or through a change of the child’s birth certificate in certain circumstances (see ‘Changing a child’s name via the birth certificate‘ below). 

Schools and GP’s often provide the option to register a ”known as” name in addition to registering the child’s legal name. The legal name will be used on official documentation, i.e. school record, medical record, prescriptions etc. The known as name, on the other hand, could be used on less official documentation and teachers would address the child by their known as name. 

Changing a child’s name via the birth certificate

It is unlikely that the child’s birth certificate will be amended once a child’s name has been changed via deed poll. This is because the birth certificate is considered to be a historical record, correct at the time of birth. However, there are certain circumstances when the birth certificate can be amended and the child’s name can be changed through this amendment.

Amending a child’s first name

A child’s forename can be changed if a child’s parents have given the child a different first name and the birth was registered in the past 12 months. There will need to be proof that the child was baptised under a different name or the different name was regularly used in relation to the child. The child’s first name can only be changed once. To change the first name on the birth certificate contact the local register office for the necessary forms.

Amending a child’s surname 

A child’s surname can be changed if the birth is re-registered. Re-registration can be carried out in the following circumstances:

  • To record the biological father’s details on the birth record
  • To record the female partner of the child’s mother on the birth record, if she is the legal parent and was not recorded originally
  • Following the marriage of the parents, if they were not married at the time of the birth
  • Following the civil partnership of the legal parents, if they were not civil partners at the time of the birth
  • After a court has issued a declaration of parentage.

See our information page on ‘register and re-register a child’s birth‘ for further information. 

What is the process to change a child’s name? 

The consent of each person with parental responsibility is required in order to change the name of a child who is under the age of 16

The application forms to change a child’s name via deed poll can be located on the website. There is also a guidance document which provides further detail on the application process. 

Official documents and records can be changed to the new name once the deed poll process has been completed. The birth certificate can still be used for identification purposes but it should be accompanied with the deed poll certificate which evidences the change of name and overrides the name on the birth certificate. 

What can be done if consent is not provided to change a child’s name? 

An application can be made to the court for a specific issue order in the event that a person with parental responsibility will not consent to the change of name. The applicant would need to demonstrate that, in accordance with the welfare checklist, it would be in the child’s best interests for this order to be granted. A child’s name is considered an integral part of their identity and therefore this type of application is not taken lightly by the court. 

A successful applicant can then proceed to change the child’s name via deed poll, as described in the section above. 

What can be done if a person with parental responsibility is absent from the child’s life? 

It might be possible to change a child’s name via deed poll without the consent of a person with parental responsibility if their whereabouts are not known and reasonable steps have been taken to establish contact. 

However, there might be restrictions with using the change of name if it has been carried out without the consent of each person with PR and without the permission of the court. The passport office, in particular, can be strict in this area. If a person is absent from a child’s life, the person wishing to change the child’s name would have a stronger case in court and therefore this is the preferable approach to take. 

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

It would be reasonable to expect that interested parties, such as a father without parental responsibility, would be contacted prior to a child’s name being changed and that the matter would be taken to court if a dispute were to arise. 

If a child’s name has already been changed, a father without parental responsibility can apply to court for a specific issue order to have the change of name reversed. 

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.