Can I change my child’s name?

Barker Son & Isherwood LLP


Phone 01264 353411


A person’s name usually carries much greater significance than a collection of letters written on a dotted line. A name is a personal identity. It’s why some parents agonise over what to call their baby, how to continue the passing down of a family name, and – increasingly frequently these days – deciding which surname to go with.

So it’s no surprise that the law doesn’t allow decisions about a name to be undone lightly. Of course, some families choose to use different names (middle names or nicknames, for example) on an informal basis but that is as far as that can go; it’s the name that appears on the child’s birth certificate that is recognised in law.

That is not to say that a birth name is set in stone. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might want to give their child a different name – particularly a surname. This could happen after an acrimonious relationship breakdown, where a mother (for example) might want to distance herself and her child from an abusive ex. However it can also happen in happier situations, where two families are merging and the parents want step-brothers and sisters to share a single surname.

The basic rule is that to change a child’s name, a parent will need the agreement of everyone who has parental responsibility. A mother automatically has parental responsibility but an unmarried father may not. So, technically, in some circumstances a mother may be able to legally change her child’s name by herself, if she is the only person who has parental responsibility. However, it is usually best to try to reach agreement on this.

If another person who has parental responsibility for your child refuses to agree to the name change, you will need to apply to the court for a ‘specific issue’ order. The application will be carefully considered by a Judge, who will scrutinise your reason for wanting your child’s name to be changed, and – ultimately – whether the change would be in your child’s best interests. 

For advice about this or any other family law issue, please contact our family department on 01264 353411 or email and a member of the team would be happy to help.

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