|UK Deed Poll Service|
|Information and advice about changing your name by Deed Poll|
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About Deed Polls
General name change information
About Deed Polls
Can I change my children's names?
You can easily change your child's name by Deed Poll providing those with parental responsibility consent to the name change. If your child is 18 or over, they must execute their own Deed Poll.
Parental responsibility is a legal term and its definition and acquisition vary according to where in the UK your child resides. This article will enable you to understand the meaning of parental responsibility and determine who has parental responsibility for your child and thus who needs to consent to your child's name change.
Please read all of this page before completing the online application form. If you have sole parental responsibility and the father has regular contact with your child, please also read the section titled 'Important legal issues' towards the bottom of this page.
Please note, if your child is 16 or 17 years of age, the child must also consent in writing to their name being changed by Deed Poll. This is because at the age of 16 a person can decide for themselves what name they wish to be known by (although they cannot change their name by Deed Poll until they are 18).
Example letters of consent can be found on our Example letters of consent page. There is a link to the letters on the online application form.
What is parental responsibility?
Having parental responsibility for a child means that you are responsible for, and have the right to be consulted about, the child's health, education and welfare. To change a child's name, those with parental responsibility must consent to the name change.
Who has parental responsibility?
Throughout the United Kingdom, a mother is automatically given parental responsibility. However, the acquisition of parental responsibility by fathers varies according to where the child resides:
If a father has parental responsibility, his consent is required to change his child's name. This is the case even if he and the mother have separated, divorced or remarried and if the father has no contact whatsoever with the child.
If a father, who has parental responsibility and who no longer lives with the mother and child, refuses to give his consent to change his child's name, the only course of action for the mother to apply to the courts for leave (permission) to change the child's name. A court will give permission if it believes it will be in the child's best interests to allow the name change. The court will take into account the degree of commitment of the father to the child and the quality of contact between the father and child to determine whether the link with the father (by shared surname) can be broken. An older child's views will also be important in deciding whether the name change should be allowed.
Acquisition of parental
responsibility by unmarried fathers
If an unmarried father acquires parental responsibility, his consent would be required, in addition to the mother's consent, to change their child's name.
Acquisition of parental
responsibility by step-fathers
If a step-father acquires parental responsibility, his consent would be required, in addition to anyone else who has parental responsibility, to change the child's name e.g. the mother and maybe the natural father.
responsibility is lost
Please note, parental responsibility can be limited by Care Orders, Contact Orders or Prohibited Steps Orders.
Important legal issues
There have been a few successful legal actions in England where an unmarried father without parental responsibility, has obtained a court order to have his child's change of surname reversed (but not any forename changes). In each case, the mother had changed her child's surname from the father's surname to her surname. The court ordered that the child's surname be changed back to the father's surname. The significant factor taken into account by the courts was that the courts recognised the importance of maintaining a link with the father. By sharing the same surname with the child, the father's biological link is recognised. The courts also took into account the degree of commitment of the father to the child and the quality of contact between the father and child. In these successful cases, there was frequent contact with the child by the father. This does mean, however, that if the father does not have frequent contact with his child, it is highly unlikely that he will be successful in obtaining an order to reverse a change of surname because there is no link to break.
You are therefore advised that if you change your child's surname and the father has frequent contact with your child, he may be able to have the change of name reversed (if he has the inclination, time and money to go through the court process). The only way to eliminate the risk of the change of surname being reversed is to apply to the courts for leave (permission) to change the child's name without the consent of the father.
If the father of your child has frequent contact an option to consider is to double barrel the surname with your surname i.e. add your surname to the child's surname. By doing this, it much more unlikely that the father will seek a court order to reverse the name change because his name has not been removed and thus the biological link to the father has not been broken. Furthermore, if you do not link the two names with a hyphen, in common usage only the child's first name and last name will be used. For example, if your child is known as Rebecca Louise Smith and you change the surname to Smith Jones (i.e. add your surname of Jones) then in common usage, the child will be called Rebecca Jones. However, if you hyphenate the surname, the child will always be called Rebecca Smith-Jones.
One further point to consider relates to the age of your child. If your child is into their adolescence (about 11 upwards) and the child wants the name change, the chance of the father being successful in obtaining a court order to reverse a surname change is significantly reduced. This is because a judge must act in the best interests of the child and if the child is able to demonstrate that they fully understand the significance of the name change and desire the name change then the judge will take the child's views into account.
Changing a child's name without
the consent of an absent father who has parental responsibility
In this situation, the mother must write a letter of consent and include information about what reasonable measures she has taken to contact the absent father - for example, writing to the father's last known address and contacting relatives and friends of the father etc (see Letter 4 on the example letters of consent page). Although we will issue a Deed Poll upon receipt of a satisfactory letter of consent, there is a risk, that the father may in the future contest the change of name through the courts. However, a court will only reverse the change of name if it believes it is in the best interests of the child to do so. The court will take into account the degree of commitment of the father to the child and the quality of contact between the father and child. Therefore, if the father is voluntarily absent for a prolonged period of time (say for more than a year), the court is very unlikely to support a father's application to have a name change reversed. Furthermore, the father's chances are further reduced if the child also wishes to change their name, particularly an adolescent child who has an understanding of the significance of changing their name.
Please note that the issue of a Deed Poll by us - where one of the parents is absent and uncontactable - is no guarantee that all official record holders, e.g. school, doctor, passport office etc, will change your child's name records. This is because official holders of records should satisfy for themselves that all those with parental responsibility have consented to the child's name change. If the consent of an absent and uncontactable parent is not obtained, an official record holder can refuse to change a child's name records. Our experience is that this rarely happens. However, it is more likely that a child's name change will be refused if the letter of consent does not contain sufficient information to demonstrate that reasonable attempts have been made to contact the absent parent. It may be that you are asked to provide evidence of the attempts you have made to contact the absent parent or are asked for a solicitor's letter confirming that the absent parent cannot be traced.
The only way to guarantee that a Deed Poll will be effective is to obtain a court order permitting the parent with custody to change their child's name without the consent of the absent parent. If you and your child(ren) live in England or Wales, applying for a court order (known as a 'section 8' order) is not difficult so do not be put off from doing what you think will be a daunting experience. To download the application form (form C1) and leaflets (leaflets CB1, CB2 and CB3), click on this link, which will take you to the Court Service's download page.
To order the forms by telephone, click on this link to find your nearest Family Court (in England and Wales). Telephone the court and ask for an application form and leaflets to enable you to apply for a section 8 order. If you require assistance with obtaining a court order, you should see a solicitor or call in to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Letter of consent
Last updated: 12 August 2003