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Can I change my child’s name without their other parent’s consent?

Feb 11, 2019

It is not uncommon for people in a household to have different surnames.

Unmarried parents, or those who have chosen not to take the same name, will have had to decide on a surname for their child. A parent who has separated from the other may have reverted to their pre-married name, leaving their child still bearing the ‘family’ name. A parent, step-parent, children, and step-children may all live under one roof.

There are various situations that can exist, and each usually involves consideration of whether a particular child’s surname ought to be changed. This often stems from concern that where a child has a different surname to others in the home, they might not feel a settled part of the family environment in which they are now living.

However, changing a child’s surname is not simply a matter of one parent filling in a form. Everyone who has parental responsibility for the child (usually both parents) must consent to the name-change before the legal process can get off the ground. Where that consent is not forthcoming the court will sometimes step in, if it considers that it would be in the child’s best interests to change his or her name. Similarly, a court may listen to any objections the child may have. Ultimately, the decision must be about the child and not about their parents’ feelings or wishes – something that is important to bear in mind, particularly where there has been an acrimonious break-up.

It is not just a name-change that would require the consent of all those with parental responsibility. Significant decisions around religion, schooling, and the country in which the child should live should not ordinarily be capable of being made by one parent without the input of anyone else holding parental responsibility. These are not day-to-day decisions; they may well have a profound effect on a child’s life. The law therefore protects children from having these types of matters decided by one parent unilaterally who may be acting on a whim, in revenge, under a mistaken belief, or without fully considering the effects that their decision may have.

If you are affected by any aspect of this – whether you are a parent, grandparent, or other relative of a child about whom an important decision is being made – talk to one of our family law solicitors. We’ll help ensure that the proper process is put in place and the right steps taken.

For advice about any aspect of a change of name, contact Sandra Machin or Jennifer Peebles on family@bsandi.co.uk or call for an appointment on 01264 353411.


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