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How do you change a child’s name?

Are you considering changing the name of your child? We provide guidance on the legal steps you will need to adhere to.

A change of name can be a change of forename, surname, adding or removing parts of the name, adding hyphens, or even changing the spelling. A deed poll is a legal document that is witnessed that proves a change of name.

There are two ways to change the name of a child under the age of 16. You can either:

  1. Make an ‘unenrolled’ deed poll; or
  2. Apply for an ‘enrolled’ deed poll.

What is an ‘unenrolled’ deed poll?

An ‘unenrolled’ deed poll for a child must be drafted by either a solicitor or a specialist deed poll agency. An ‘unenrolled’ deed poll is a legal document confirming the change of name that is not then registered at the Royal Courts of Justice.

What is an ‘enrolled’ deed poll?

An ‘enrolled’ deed poll will provide a public record of the name change, as details of the name change are published in the London Gazette online. To complete an ‘enrolled’ deed poll, there is a specific application form which needs to be completed, and there is a cost to submit the form to the Royal Courts of Justice.

Who can change a child’s name?

All people with parental responsibility for the child must agree to the change of name. It is recommended that you obtain the written consent of all those with parental responsibility so that this can be used as evidence, should there be a dispute in future. In addition, certain organisations may request this confirmation when changing the child’s name on certain documentation.

What if we cannot agree on the change of name?

If you and the other person or people with parental responsibility cannot agree on the change of name and you still wish to pursue the change of name, an application to the court for a Specific Issue Order would be necessary.

What will the court consider if I do need to apply for a Specific Issue Order?

The court’s primary consideration with such an application and whether or not to allow the change of name is whether doing so is in the child’s best interests.

Each case is fact-dependent and the court will consider all circumstances in the case. Some considerations of the court will be:

  • When the issue of a change of name was first raised and the circumstances;
  • The reasons for the proposed change of name;
  • The length of time the child has been known by their existing name;
  • The effect on the child should the change of name be permitted and if it is not;
  • Depending on the child’s age, their wishes, and feelings on the proposed change.

The court will also look for reassurance that the motivation behind the change of name is not to reduce the role or significance of the other parent in the child’s life.

Case law on the issue highlights that an application made for convenience sake is unlikely to succeed and therefore if you are considering making an application for a Specific Issue Order, we recommend that you should seek early legal advice.

How does this differ to changing your name as an adult?

As an adult you do not need follow a process to start using a new name. However, certain organisations may insist upon a deed poll. Adults can make an ‘unenrolled’ deed poll, which can be drafted by a solicitor, a specialist deed poll agency or, as an adult, you are able to draft it yourself. You also have the option of applying for an ‘enrolled’ deed poll.

You do not need a deed poll to take your spouse’s or civil partner’s surname following marriage or civil partnership.

If you divorce or end your civil partnership, it is possible to revert to your original name by showing your marriage certificate and decree absolute/final order or civil partnership certificate and final order. It is recommended that you check with each organisation as some may insist upon a deed poll to make the name change.

It is neither a legal nor a practical requirement to enrol a deed poll, but you must ensure it meets the correct formalities. If unsure, you should seek legal advice.

For further guidance on changing a child's name, contact our children solicitors.

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