Can I Change My Child’s Surname without the Other Parent’s Consent?
When parents separate, it’s common for either parent to want to change their child’s surname. It might be following a remarriage, or because the mother is reverting to her maiden name, or maybe to make sure the child’s surname matches the surname of their half siblings.
Whatever the reason, you will need the consent of whoever else has parental responsibility if you want to change your child’s surname. Without it, you will have no other option but to apply to the Court for a Specific Issue Order.
Who Has Parental Responsibility?
The mother of the child will always have parental responsibility. A father who marries the mother will automatically get parental responsibility.
You also get parental responsibility by either:
- Registering on the birth certificate
- Getting a Parental Responsibility Agreement
- Applying to the Family Court for a Parental Responsibility Order
Applying to the Court to Change Your Child’s Surname
Applying to change your child’s surname can be difficult because the Courts will likely be in favour of keeping the surname the same unless changing it will result in an obvious improvement to your child’s welfare.
So if you want to change your child’s name, you will need to put up a strong argument and a high threshold will need to be met.
The Court will consider the following welfare factors before arriving at its decision:
- The child’s wishes and feelings
- The child’s emotional needs
- The likely effect on the child if the surname is changed
- The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics that the Court considers relevant
- Any harm that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
Although the Courts are reluctant to change a child’s surname, applications are usually successful where there is a risk to a child’s safety, which would justify a change.
This often happens in cases of domestic violence and child abduction.
Changing your child’s surname might be the right decision for your child, but you should seek legal advice before applying to the Court.
Can I Avoid Applying to Court to Change my Child’s Surname?
To avoid going to Court, if you cannot agree on your child’s surname, you can choose to settle for a double-barrel surname to reflect both maternal and paternal sides of the family as a compromise.
This is also encouraged by the Courts, if possible, and although it may not be what you want to hear, it could save a lot of arguments for your child’s sake.
Get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors for more expert legal advice.
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