Obtaining a Court Order for a Child's Name Change
In order to change the name of a child less than sixteen years of age all those holding parental responsibility must give their consent to the name change. Further information on parental responsibility and to find out who holds it please read our page Parental Responsibility.
However, under special circumstances, or through a court order, a parent can sometimes change their child's name without gaining consent from all those with parental responsibility.
Fathers holding parental responsibility who do not consent to the name change
The case sometimes arises that a mother wishes to change the surname of her child from the child's father's name, to her own. This is usually the case when parents have separated or divorced, and a mother has reverted to her maiden name. A mother could have entered into a new relationship, or since remarried and be operating under her partners surname. To establish a family unit where everybody operates under one name, or simply to make matters more straightforward, the preferred arrangement may be for the child to take on the new surname.
If the child's father holds parental responsibility for the child, unless he has been absent for a substantial period, his consent will need to be gained before the child's name is changed. Without the father's permission, the only way to ensure that records such as a child's passport are updated into the new name is to obtain an order from the courts. Such an order would give the child's mother permission to go about a legal name change for her child, without the fathers consent. Please read the section below for information on some of the considerations a court will have when deciding whether or not to grant an order, and how to start your application.
Absent fathers holding parental responsibility
When a child's father is absent and holds parental responsibility, problems naturally arise when trying to gain his consent for a name change. In this situation, it may be possible for a mother to change her child's name by Deed Poll without the fathers consent or a court order.
The whereabouts of the father must be unknown and the child's mother must have taken sufficient steps to contact him before making an application for a name change. When you receive your child's Deed Poll document and start sending it of to the relevant organisations, you will need to enclose a covering letter giving details of your situation. This should explain your attempts to contact the child's father, how long he has been absent for and how he is no longer a part of your child's life. It should also mention that no financial contributions are made to the child's upbringing and other details of a general lack of involvement.
Please note that in this situation, where consent has not been obtained, there is a high chance that not all official record holders such as the Identity and Passport Service will accept the name change. For this reason, we advise that you attempt to obtain a court order when changing the name of a child with whom an absent father is involved.
The only way to ensure that the name change will be accepted is by obtaining a court order. If the father has been absent for several years you shouldn't have any difficulty obtaining a court order giving you permission to change your child's name without the father with parental responsibility giving his consent. Please read the section below for information on how to apply to the courts.
Considerations when granting a Court Order
Whether or not a court order is obtained will depend on a variety of factors. However, as in all other disputes relating to children, the court has always had regard to the welfare of the child involved as its paramount consideration.
Contact between father and child
The amount of contact that the father has with the child will be a primary factor in deciding whether or not a court order is granted. If a father maintains regular contact, for example meets up with his son/daughter weekly and acknowledges birthdays etc. it will be far more difficult to convince the court that it is in the child' best interests to remove his surname.
However, in the case of an absent father the outcome would often be different. A father can be considered absent if he no longer plays any part in the child's life. This could mean that he has not been in contact for several years - no visits, birthday or Christmas cards, or recognition of any kind. In such a situation it is far easier to convince a court that with no contact from the father for such a long period of time, it would be in the child's best interests to dissociate from him altogether. Court orders allowing a change of name are then obtained relatively easily.
Contributions made by the father
Financial contributions made by the father to the child or child's mother will also be considered. By being of financial support the father is playing an active role in his son/daughter's life and will gain recognition for this. Courts will be less inclined to remove a fathers surname in such cases.
On the other hand fathers who pay no maintenance cost at all, will be looked upon less favourably and thus increase the chances of a court order being granted.
The child's opinion and age
It has been observed that the exercise of parental responsibility is limited when children reach an age at which they have sufficient understanding to make decisions about their own future. Such is the case that if a child of fourteen or fifteen years of age, felt strongly about the decision of a name change, their views would hold substantial weight in a court of law. Since the primary concern throughout would be the best interests of the child, if she or he was capable of expressing his or her own views they must be taken into account.
While the courts have not identified a specific age at which children are considered adequately mature, it follows that the older the child, the greater the weight that will be attached to their opinions. Therefore, if an older child rejects the idea of having their surname changed from that of their father, it is unadvisable to attempt to get a court order. In such a case the court will invariably question a mother's motive for the name change.
How to apply for a Court Order
Many people are wary of seeking a court order and anticipate a difficult and costly experience. However, applying for a court order to change a child's name is a relatively simple process. The relevant form that will need to be completed can be found below.
Once a court order has been obtained, the child's mother can go about a legal change of name for her son/daughter. When filling in the application form for a Deed Poll the child's mother should apply as if she held sole parental responsibility for her child. This is simply because by issuing the court order, the court has in effect overruled the father's rights as regards the name change.
By providing both a Deed Poll document showing the child's change of name, along with a copy of the court order, there should be no problems with changing the name on a child records, including their passport.
To change your name...
- Fill in our online application form
- Receive your Deed Poll in the post
- Sign and date your Deed Poll
- Update records into your new name
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