Our Guide to Understanding Child Name Changes

Posted on: 10 mins read
Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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There are several reasons as to why you may be looking to change your child’s name. Whether you’re getting divorced from their other parent or re-married and you want to change your child’s name to reflect this, there are certainly options for you.

At Simpson Millar, our Family Law Solicitors specialise in helping with these kinds of cases. We understand that these things can be difficult at times, especially if some of the parties involved have differing views and opinions as to what the child’s name should be.

That’s why we aim to make sure we understand your side of the story and your reasons for wanting to change your child’s name. From this point, we’ll be able to discuss and negotiate things on your behalf, helping take as much of the stress and weight off your shoulders as possible.

What is Parental Responsibility and How Does This Play a Role in Changing A Child’s Name?

When a married couple have a child, they both have Parental Responsibility, which gives them several rights and responsibilities, including the ability to change a child’s first name or surname.

But, if the parents aren’t married, Parental Responsibility is only automatically given to the child’s Mum. This means that, if you’re the child’s Dad but you’re not married to their Mum, and you never have been, you probably don’t have Parental Responsibility. For a child’s Dad to obtain Parental Responsibility they have to be listed as the child’s Father on the child’s birth certificate.

This means that, when parents are unmarried, the Dad won’t be able to change any part of their child’s name unless they have Parental Responsibility. Overall, in this case, the Mum would have the power and the final decision when it comes to this potential name change.

If both parents have Parental Responsibility and they can’t decide on whether to change their child or children’s name, they can apply for a Specific Issue Order which will state what the child’s name is to be.

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Who Can Change a Child’s Name?

If you’re looking to change your child’s first name or surname, you might be wondering if you legally can. The following people can change a child’s name:

  • The people with Parental Responsibility;
  • The child themselves, if they are over 16.

It’s important to mention, though, that everyone who has Parental Responsibility has to agree with this decision to change the child’s name, otherwise the change can’t be made.

This can be really difficult to navigate, which is why in these situations, it may be worth looking at getting expert advice and help from a Solicitor with expertise in this area.

At Simpson Millar, our Family Law Solicitors specialise in Parental Responsibility and Specific Issue Orders, meaning we can guide you through how to proceed if you and your partner or ex share Parental Responsibility but don’t agree on changing your child’s name.

Changing a Name with a Deed Poll

If you want to change your child’s name, you can apply for a Deed Poll to make sure their new name is on legal documents and ID like their Passport.

Getting a Deed Poll doesn’t have to be a difficult process. To apply for an ‘enrolled’ Deed Poll, all you need to do is apply to the Royal Courts of Justice, which costs £48.32.

If you’re a little worried about the process of changing your child’s name with a Deed Poll, you can always come to us for legal advice. In addition, we’ll include Deed Poll advice and help when we’re dealing with your Parental Responsibility or Specific Issue Order case.

Can I Change My Child's Name after Divorce?

Many people change their child’s name after divorce, especially if they’re going to be the main parent of the child going forward. That’s why it’s important to understand how this process works.

Just like when you’re changing your child’s name under other circumstances, you need to be sure that everyone who has Parental Responsibility agrees with your decision. This includes your soon to be ex-spouse.

This can of course get tricky, which is why people get this kind of thing sorted whilst going through the divorce process, so they can get the legal side of things done in one go.

If you’re going through a divorce and you’re looking to change your child’s name, our Divorce Solicitors can take a look at your case and see what your options are when it comes to changing your child’s name.

Can I Change My Child's Name without the Other Parent's Consent?

Whether you can change your child’s name without the other parent’s consent pretty much depends on whether you both have Parental Responsibility. There are three situations you could find yourself in:

  1. You don’t have Parental Responsibility, but your partner does. In this case, you don’t have the power to change your child’s name.
  2. You have Parental Responsibility, but your partner doesn’t. In this case, the ethical thing would be to let them know about the name change, but sometimes, things aren’t civil enough for this to happen, so you don’t have to. In these cases, though, you don’t need consent from the other parent to change your child’s name.
  3. You both have Parental Responsibility. In these cases, both parents must agree, in order for the change of name to happen.

The last situation can be tricky at times, because it means everyone must agree on the right decision, which is in the best interest of the child. If you cannot agree this is when an application will need to be made for a Specific Issue Order. With a solid legal team behind you, you’ll be able to understand what’s going on and what your options are.

Can I Change My Child’s Surname Without the Other Parent’s Consent?

The same as above essentially goes for when you’re changing your child’s surname.

If you decide you want to change your child’s surname and both you and the other parent have Parental Responsibility, it’s essential that everyone agrees.

These decisions can be tricky, which is why it’s always a good option to get help and advice from a legal team who can represent your side wherever needed.

Applying to the Court to Change Your Child’s First Name or Surname

The process of applying to change your child’s first name or surname doesn’t have to be a difficult or complex one, as long as you know what you’re doing and what to expect.

If you and the other parent can’t decide on whether to change your child’s name, you may have to apply for a Court Order, like a Specific Issue Order.

The stages for applying for this are as follows:

  1. Fill out a C100 Form: This is a form you have to fill out and send to the court. You’ll have to give information about the circumstances of the change of name.
  2. Obtain the Court Order: The right people will look over your C100 Form and the information you’ve provided, and they’ll figure out if you should get a Court Order. There may be 1 or more court hearings to consider your application before a court order is made.
  3. Application form for Deed Poll: If the Court Order has been obtained, you’ll then be able to apply to change the child’s name via Deed Poll.

Court Guidelines for Changing A Child’s Name

As we’ve explained above, Court guidelines apply when you want to change your child’s name. Whether or not you are allowed to do this depends on what your rights are as their parent.

This is decided by Parental Responsibility. Generally, the idea is that, if you have Parental Responsibility, you can change your child’s name, as long as the other parent who also has Parental Responsibility agrees.

But, if you don’t have Parental Responsibility, you can’t change your child’s name. Only the child’s Mum has automatic Parental Responsibility – Dads don’t, unless they’re married at the time of birth or if they get married after the birth of the child in question or they are listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Do Dads have Parental Responsibility?

Dads do have Parental Responsibility, in certain conditions. These are as follows:

  • If they’re listed on the child’s birth certificate;
  • If they’re married to the child’s Mum at the time of birth;
  • If they marry the child’s Mum after the birth.

Can I Stop My Child’s Name being Changed?

If you and the child’s other parent both have Parental Responsibility and you don’t agree on whether to change the child’s name, this is where things may get a little trickier.

Ideally, you’ll be able to resolve this dispute on your own before turning to Court Proceedings, as the Court system is often quite overwhelmed.

To do this, you can try and arrange mediation, so that there is an independent third party there, in case you’re worried about the conflict involved in making these decisions.

If you have to go down the route of Court Proceedings, though, there are Court Orders you can get to be able to change your child’s name or to state that your child’s name is not to be changed, whether that’s a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.

When it comes to the outcome of Court Proceedings, the common decision that Family Court makes is for the child to have a double-barrelled surname which contains both parents’ surnames, as this is usually the fairest way of doing things.

Can I Change My Child's Name if the Other Parent is Absent from Their Life and I Don’t Know how to Contact Them?

If you want to change your child’s name and their other parent has been absent for a while (and they have Parental Responsibility), you need to make sure you’re taking all the steps you possibly can to contact them.

Once you’ve done this, and if they’re still not getting in contact with you, you would still need to take the above steps to obtain the relevant court order as no consent will have been obtained from all people with Parental Responsibility. Unfortunately, these things happen, and that’s why there are steps you can take if this is the case.

What Steps Should I Take After My Child’s Name Has Officially Been Changed?

There are a few places and organisations you’ll need to inform of your child’s change of name once it’s been approved, to make sure all the legal and other documents are the same and are correct. There is usually a process of doing this which can differ based on the organisation.

These include the following:

  • Passport;
  • Driving license (if the child is of age);
  • Car documents (again, if the child is of age);
  • Schools;
  • Banks;
  • Any other organisation that has your child’s name.

Doing this helps to make sure that there aren’t any inconsistencies when it comes to your child’s name, how it’s spelled, and who has the updated or new name.

This is a super important part of the process of changing your child’s name, once the legal side of things is over.

How Much Does It Cost to Change a Child’s Name?

The cost of changing a child’s name depends on the processes that take place before, especially if there are any Court applications, Mediation or other services and professionals involved.

If the process is simple and easy and you just need an enrolled Deed Poll, this costs £48.32, at the time of writing.

But, if you need a Court Order to be able to change your child’s name, this can cost an additional £232 for the court fee plus solicitor’s fees.

If you're worried about the costs associated with changing your child’s name, it’s worth seeing if you can settle and make the decision outside of Court, as this can really help bring costs down. In addition, coming to a decision outside of Court will help make the whole process not only faster, but easier from an emotional standpoint. 

How Can Simpson Millar Help with Change of Name Disputes?

If you want to change your child’s name and there’s some sort of complication or dispute going on, we can provide legal help and advice to guide you through the process.

These things can be difficult, especially when it’s causing arguments between you and your child’s other parent, but we can help take some of the stress off your shoulders when it comes to the legal side of things.

We aim to provide a non-judgemental and open space for our clients to discuss any legal aspect of their case with us, and we will always answer with honesty and in a way that anyone can understand.

We will always update you about the progress of your case and let you know what will happen next, so you don’t have to be left in the dark about proceedings.


UK Government. (n.d.). Parental rights and responsibilities: Who has parental responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/parental-rights-responsibilities/who-has-parental-responsibility

UK Government. (n.d.). Looking after children if you divorce or separate: Types of court order. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/looking-after-children-divorce/types-of-court-order

Deed Poll Office. (n.d.). Changing a child's name. Retrieved from https://deedpolloffice.com/change-name/children

UK Government. (n.d.). Change your name by deed poll. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/change-name-deed-poll

UK Deed Poll. (n.d.). Changing a child's name by court order. Retrieved from https://www.ukdp.co.uk/child-name-change-court-order/

UK Deed Poll. (n.d.). Child deed poll application. Retrieved from https://www.ukdp.co.uk/child-deed-poll-application/

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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