Changing a child's name
The name change process differs slightly where the deed is executed on behalf of a minor.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
In order to legally change the name of a child, it is essential that written consent is obtained from everyone with parental responsibility (PR) or legal guardianship (LG).
When applying to have the change recognised by official bodies such as the government or NHS you must be in possession of written consent.
If you don't have written consent you can make a statutory declaration and submit it alongside your deed poll. The statutory declaration should confirm that everyone with parental responsibility has consented to the change of name. Note however, that where a Court Order is in place concerning the child, a statutory declaration cannot be used. Making a false statutory declaration is a serious offence.
If it isn't possible to obtain the written permission of everybody with PR, you may apply for a court order allowing a deed poll to be used.
In Scotland, only one person with parental rights or responsibilities needs to consent to the name change. The person making the application must produce a written statement confirming that they have consulted the other parent and the child themselves. The statement must confirm that they have taken the view of the other consultees into account.
If there is an overriding reason that prevents you from consulting the other parent, you can apply for a court order. This is typically referred to as a SIO or Specific Issue Order.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility is the legal phrase used to describe the rights, responsibilities and duties that a parent has towards their child. This definition is outlined under Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 as being;
"all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property"
A person who has parental responsibility for a child has the legal right to be consulted about their child. Specifically their health, education, and wellbeing. They also have a duty of care and responsibility to safeguard the child from harm.
Mothers automatically obtain parental responsibility for their child on birth, however that isn’t necessarily the case for fathers. The issue of whether a father is deemed to have legal responsibility towards his child is dependent upon where in the United Kingdom the child was born. Issues such as when the birth was registered and marital status of the parents is also considered.
Absent or Missing Parents
Where consent is refused by a parent a child’s name cannot be changed by deed. There are however legal means of recourse specifically through the Family Courts. The Family Court has the power to grant an order permitting the child’s name to be changed without full consent. As this is seen as a relatively draconian approach, the court will only grant such orders where they are in the best interest of the child, or where exceptional circumstances are demonstrated.
Where a parent is not locatable or has been persistently absent, it may be possible to proceed with a change of name without their consent. This is likely only to be the case where you demonstrate that you have made significant efforts to locate and gain the consent of the parent in question.