This is one of the most common questions we are asked. We receive many hundreds of emails and online chats from mothers and fathers asking about the name change process for their children. In this blog post we'll take a look at the ins and out of changing a child's name by deed poll.
What the Law Says...
The law is very clear in this respect. Parents have the right to change their child's name at any point, up until the child is sixteen years old. From age 16 - 18 the a child requires parental consent to change their own name, but can object to a parent changing it on their behalf. The law itself is very complex and has been codified in judicial precedent over many hundreds of years. To read more about the specific legal background and preceding case law you can visit our Name Change Law page.
The Name Change Process
Parents can legally change their child's name using a legal document known as a deed poll. A deed poll change of name declaration is a special type of document used to officially abandon the use of your child's current name and assume and adopt a new one. The document outlines a few key legal requirements and creates an obligation for people to acknowledge the new name.
In order to apply to change a child's name by deed poll, everyone with parental responsibility must consent to the change. This means that where both mother and father have parental responsibility both must be willing to give written consent for the process to take place. There are exceptions to the rule where a deed poll can be used even if one parent objects, we will discuss these exceptions in this post. If Both Parents Consent to the Name Change... Where both parents consent to change of name, the process is surprisingly simple. A deed poll application can be completed via our Apply Now page, giving the child's current name and the name being adopted.
Where One Parent Objects...
If a parent, or somebody deemed to have parental responsibility for the child objects to the name change, the process is slightly more complicated. Don't worry though, it isn't totally impossible and there are certain circumstances in which you can proceed with the name change regardless.
The parent applying for a deed poll can simultaneously apply to the family courts for an order allowing them to proceed with the name change. If the objecting parent is absent, routinely absent or where there are other mitigating factors, the family courts may look favourably upon a name change application. The court will always act in the best interest of the child and therefore will assess whether or not the name change will bring about any benefit.
When a Parent is Missing or Absent...
If the parent has been absent or missing long term and does not appear on the birth certificate, they will be deemed not to have parental responsibility for the child, and as such their permission is not required.
Where the parent is noted on the birth certificate but nonetheless cannot be contacted or asked for their consent, an application for a deed poll can be made as long as the applying parent demonstrates that they have exhausted all options in contacting the absent parent. In these cases a covering letter should be attached to the deed poll explaining that only one parent has given written consent for the change of name and that despite efforts to locate the second parent, no consent has been received. Whilst we will issue a deed poll in these circumstances, we cannot guarantee that HM Passport Office will accept it without a court order.
I Just Want to Change my Childs First Name
The same process is used to change the first name as is used to change a child's surname. The consent of an absent parent is not required to change a child's first name as the applying parent is entitled to do so under the provisions of the Children's Act 1989. As with a change of surname in the same circumstances, you must attach a covering letter explaining that only one parent has consented and the change of name is made pursuant to the Children's Act 1989.
Taking the next step...
If you've decided you want to apply for a deed poll change of name pack for your child, and you either have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility or you are satisfied that you don't need it, you can make an application online using the button below. It is the responsibility of the adult making the application to ensure consent has been received or is not required.
Our helpful team are online 24/7 to help guide you through the name change process. You can speak to us at any time using our online chat function of visiting our customer care page.