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Changing the name of a minor

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Changing a child's name

The process for changing the name of a minor varies depending on where in the UK you are located.

Changing a child's name in England and Wales

You can change the name of your child by deed poll provided that you have parental responsibility for that child and any other person who has parental responsibility consents to the name change. The child must also be a British citizen in respect of any application by deed poll. Alternatively, you can complete a statutory declaration of name change for the child. See our 'Changing your name' section for more information.

A child aged 16 or 17 in England and Wales must also consent to the change of their name by signing the deed poll in both their old and new name. Once 18 or over, he or she must apply to change their own name. Additionally, any female child over the age of 16 who is, or has been, married or in a civil partnership must also make their own application.

In order to evidence a change of name by deed poll, the deed poll must be enrolled. This just means that you must send the deed poll, along with other supporting documentation and fee, to the Action Department of the Royal Courts of Justice where it will be lodged for safe keeping. The court will take the necessary steps to advertise the change of name in the London Gazette.

Your application to enrol the deed poll must be supported by a statement in which you state the reason why you think it will be beneficial for your child to have his/her name changed.

Your application to enrol the deed poll must also be supported by a statutory declaration made by a UK householder who knows you and who also knows your child. This person must, in addition to being a UK householder, be a Commonwealth citizen. It is recommended that you have known this person for ten years or more; however, it is not a legal requirement.

Changing a child's name in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the process is similar to that in England and Wales; however, we strongly recommend that you seek independent legal advice prior to commencing any process to change the name of a minor.

Changing a child's name in Scotland

In Scotland, it is strongly recommended that you seek independent legal advice prior to commencing any process to change the name of a child. A child is someone considered to be under the age of 16.

It is possible to record a formal change to forename and/or surname for anyone whose birth was registered in Scotland or for anyone who was legally adopted in Scotland. In respect of a child who is under 16, the applicant can be either:

  • Where there is only one parent with parental responsibilities in respect of the child, that parent
  • Where there are two parents with parental responsibilities in respect of the child, both parents
  • Where neither parent has parental responsibilities in respect of the child, then whoever has acquired the parental responsibilities in respect of the child
The process is by way of application to the General Register of Scotland. The process is subject to a fee. Full details and application forms are available from General Register Office of Scotland.

Parental responsibility and parental responsibilities

What is parental responsibility or parental responsibilities?

This is a legal concept in the UK which refers to legal rights and responsibilities towards children. It gives you the rights to do such things as change the name of a child and consent to medical treatment, but also imposes obligations, such as providing a home for the child and bringing them up.

In England & Wales and Northern Ireland, this legal concept is referred to as 'parental responsibility', whilst in Scotland, it is referred to as 'parental responsibilities'.

How is it acquired?

While mothers and fathers all have a responsibility to look after their children, it is not always the case that they have the legal rights that parental responsibility or parental responsibilities brings.

England and Wales

In England & Wales, a mother is automatically considered to have parental responsibility on the birth of her child. This is not always the case for fathers.

If the child's mother and father are married at the time of the child's birth, then the father will have parental responsibility. However, if the parents are unmarried at the time of the birth of the child, the father will only have parental responsibility if the following is true:

  • If the father has obtained a parental responsibility order from the court
  • If the father jointly registered the birth of the child with the mother after 1 December 2003
  • If the father has entered into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, a mother is automatically considered to have parental responsibility on the birth of her child. This is not always the case for fathers.

If the child's mother and father are married at the time of the child's birth, then the father will have parental responsibility. However, if the parents are unmarried at the time of the birth of the child, the father will only have parental responsibility if the following is true:

  • If the father has obtained a parental responsibility order from the court
  • If the father jointly registered the birth of the child with the mother after 15 April 2002

Scotland

In Scotland, a mother is automatically considered to have parental responsibilities on the birth of her child. This is not always the case for fathers.

If the child's mother and father are married at the time of the child's birth, then the father will have parental responsibilities. However, if the parents are unmarried at the time of the birth of the child, the father will only have parental responsibilities if the following is true:

  • If the father has obtained a parental responsibilities and parental rights order from the court
  • If the father jointly registered the birth of the child with the mother after 4 May 2006
  • If the father has entered into a parental responsibilities and parental rights agreement with the mother. This is an agreement in a set form, as specified in the Children (Scotland) Act 2005. This agreement must be registered in the public register known as the Books of Council & Session.

If you cannot obtain consent for change of name

Even if a parent has no contact with the child whatsoever, if he or she has parental responsibility, you will need to obtain his/her consent in order to change the name of your child. However, there may be genuine reasons why you are unable to obtain the consent of the other parent; for example, it may not be possible to locate him/her. If this is the case, your application for change of name may succeed if you are able to provide evidence of this, and we therefore recommend that you seek legal advice if this is the case.