I regularly get asked what the best way to change a child’s name is. There are different options, but if you want to change your child’s name, and you have parental responsibility (PR), you may wish to consider the following:
The easiest way to change your child’s name is by Deed Poll. A Deed Poll is a document that confirms a child’s name has been changed legally. You can use a Deed Poll to amend, add or remove names and hyphens, or to change the spelling of a name.
If you want to change your child’s name by Deed Poll you will need to have consent from everyone who has PR for the child. If your child is 16 years of age or over then they must apply for their own Deed Poll.
It is important that a Deed Poll is completed correctly, as otherwise it will not be legally enforceable. If you are not sure what to do you may find it helpful to get legal advice before you start.
In some circumstances it is not possible, or appropriate, for you to use a Deed Poll to change your child’s name and you will need to apply for a Court Order. This could happen if someone else, who shares PR for your child, does not agree to the name change, or if you have left a violent relationship, and you want to change your child’s name to protect them from your ex-partner.
You will need to apply to the Court for a Specific Issue Order giving you permission to change your child’s name. It is very important that you are able to locate anyone else who shares PR for your child, as they should be notified of your application to the Court. If you are unable to provide an address for the other person(s) with PR the Court can assist you by making a request for the Department of Work & Pensions to do a search for the person and their last known address.
When the Court is considering whether to grant an Order changing a child’s name they use the welfare test set out in the case of Dawson v Wearmouth . This test confirms that there must be clear reasons why it is in the best interests of a child to justify a change of name, and it is necessary to consider the welfare check-list set out in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989. This checklist includes the wishes and feelings of the child; the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs; the likely effect of any change on the child; the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics the Court considers relevant; and any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, and are worried about seeing your ex-partner at Court, you can be given protection known as “special measures.” This can include organising a separate waiting room for you and a screen being set up in the Court room. Special measures should be arranged with the Court in advance to make sure that you have the protection you need. You may find it reassuring and helpful to have a solicitor to represent you, as they can manage any necessary contact with your ex-partner during the Court proceedings.