Changing your name

Changing your name

What’s in a name? A name, and particularly a surname, may not carry any significance other than as a means of identifying a person, but it may on the other hand be an important label, indicating a person’s relationship with another, or signifying biological identity and origin. Such connections may lead a person to change his or her name or that of a child. A change of name could also be a way of confirming a change of status or resolving an embarrassment.

With the rise in divorce, and the consequent increase in single parent families and step- families, there may be numerous motives for a person to change his or her name and that of a child. A mother may wish to change her child’s name following separation from the father of the child to avoid embarrassment because she has reverted to her maiden name, or because she is in a new relationship and has assumed the name of her new partner.

Whatever the reason for a person wishing to make the change, it is important to ensure that it has legal effect. In the case of an adult the law does not prescribe any limitations on a person’s right to change his or her name. Provided that, in adopting a new name, a person does not intend to deceive or defraud another, that person may change his or her name or surname; add names to the original name or surname; substitute a name or names; or simply re-arrange the order of names.

On marriage, a woman usually chooses to take the surname of her husband. However, there is no legal requirement for her to abandon her maiden name.

An adult may change his name simply by becoming known by the assumed name by reputation. However, some authorities require documentary evidence to confirm the change such as a Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration.

Changing the name of a child who is under 16 can be simple providing the parents agree. A child aged between 16 and 18 can generally change their own name providing they have the consent of each person with Parental Responsibility or the permission of the Court.

A mother cannot change her child’s surname without the father’s agreement where he has Parental Responsibility. Even where the Father does not have Parental Responsibility and therefore on the face of it the Mother can change her child’s name, there can be problems. There have been numerous cases over the last few years concerning Father’s objecting to the change of name. It is common for a compromise to be reached and for the child to retain both parents’ surnames.

If a residence order has been made in respect of a child (see our “Children” Fact Sheet) his name cannot be changed without the written consent of each person with Parental Responsibility or a Court Order.

For more information, please contact Julie Wain on 01889 583871 or 01785 211411

Published on web site – April 2007


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)