Q: Following the breakdown of my marriage, I want to revert back to using my maiden name but also want to preserve a connection to my child. Can I change my child’s surname from my ex-husband’s surname to my last name?
A. While changing your own surname is something which can be quite easily achieved, changing your child’s name can be a more complex process.
To change a child’s name the written consent of all those with parental responsibility is required. Generally, both parents of a child would have parental responsibility, so the consent of your ex-husband will be needed before your child’s name can be changed.
Providing consent can be obtained, the name change can proceed in a relatively straightforward manner via a change of name deed. If you cannot reach agreement with your former spouse, the parent seeking the name change will be required to make an application to court to obtain a specific issue order.
When considering applications for these type of orders, the courts are generally very reluctant to allow any change to a child’s surname. The court sees the initial registration of a child’s name as an important matter in relation to a child’s identity. Any attempt to change your child’s registered name may be seen as an attempt to diminish the link between your child and their father, something which the court would be keen to avoid.
A change in name for the sole purpose of having the child’s name match that of the applicant mother’s does not generally carry much weight. The courts require very clear reasons, taking into consideration the child’s welfare, to justify any change in name. The court’s primary concern will be to ascertain whether a change in name would be in the child’s best interests.
An application to change the surname of your child is likely to gain the support of the court in instances where the other parent has limited involvement with the child. The courts are generally more willing to entertain the idea of a change in name when a double-barrelled name is proposed, as this is seen to preserve links with both parents. While the court may also take into consideration any opinions the child may have, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.
Decisions are made on a case by case basis, so it is important that you seek specialist legal advice if you’re looking to change the surname of your child.
To discuss any aspect of family law please contact Janine Hutson on 01772 258321.