Advice for young people (under 18)

Note: This page is written for young people who want to change their name, or whose parents want to change their name on their behalf.

If you’re 16 or 17 years old

Once you’re 16 years old, it’s legally your own decision to change your name — you’re treated in the same way as an adult.  That means that you can change your own name (e.g. by deed poll) without your parents’ consent (and your parents cannot change your name for you without your own consent).

There are some exceptions to this though: if you’re subject to —

  • a Child Arrangements Order in England & Wales which includes arrangements relating to who the child is to live with, or when the child is to live with any person
  • a Residence Order in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland
  • a Special Guardianship Order in England & Wales
  • a Care Order in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland
  • an interim Care Order in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland

— then you’ll need consent to change your name from everyone with parental responsibility for you — as long as the court order remains in force.  The order may come to an end on a specific date (it will say if this is the case on the court order itself) — but if not, it will come to an end on your 18th birthday.

If you’re subject to one of the court orders listed above (which is still in force) and someone with parental responsibility doesn’t give their consent, you would need to apply for a court order allowing the change.

And if there’s any other court order which forbids your name from being changed (as long as the court order remains in force), then you’ll also need to apply for a court order (a Specific Issue Order) allowing you to change your name.

☞ Find out more about how to change your name

If you’re under 16 years old

If you want to change your name, someone with parental responsibility for you will have to change your name by deed poll, on your behalf.  Everyone with parental responsibility will have a say in the matter, but the sort of consent they need to give depends on what part of the U.K. you live in.

☞ Find out more about parental responsibility and how your parents can change your name

To have your name changed by deed poll, everyone with parental responsibility for you must agree to the change of name in writing.  Official bodies will insist on seeing this written consent (as well as the deed poll) before your records can be updated.

If you’re resident in Scotland, it’s enough that one person with parental responsibilities and rights gives their consent to the change of name, but that person must make a written statement that they have consulted everyone else with parental responsibilities and rights about the change, as far as practical, and taken their views into account.  Official bodies will insist on seeing this written statement (as well as the deed poll) before your records can be updated.

If one of your parents doesn’t give consent to your change of name

If one of your parents (or guardians) wants to change your name, but the other parent doesn’t agree (and they both have parental responsibility) then the parent who wants to change your name can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order, allowing the change of name.

Applying for a court order should always be a last resort — and the parent making the application needs to demonstrate that they’ve tried to take all possible steps to reach an acceptable compromise with the other parent first.

The court will agree to change your name if they think it’s in your best interests.  This is the most important consideration of the court — not what either of your parents think about it.  It doesn’t mean that they will agree with whatever you think, but they will listen to your own views and consider your feelings.  But in the end, they’ll decide what they think is best for you.

In general, the courts are reluctant to take away the surname of one of your parents, because they think that it’s important to maintain the link of identity between you and that parent.  Of course, every family is different, and they may decide that this link of identity is better broken, or that there’s another more important reason to change your surname — however your surname is considered something especially important, and there must be a clear reason why it’s in your best interests to change it.

It also depends on how old and mature you are — the closer you are to 16, the more the court will take your own views into account, and the more likely it is to grant the order.

If you live in Scotland, the court is obliged to give you an opportunity to express your views if you’re considered sufficiently old and mature (and you’re presumed to be sufficiently old and mature if you’re 12 years old or more).

☞ Find out more about parental responsibility
☞ Find out more about your options if one parent doesn’t give consent

If neither of your parents give consent to your change of name

If you want to change your name, and none of your parents (or guardians) agree to it, you can apply to the court yourself for a Specific Issue Order.

Bear in mind that applying for a court order should be a last resort.  Your parents (or guardians) are legally responsible for you, and you’ll need to demonstrate to the court that you’ve tried to work out your differences with them first.

How you go about applying for a court order (and whether you need to get permission to do so) depends on which part of the U.K. you live in:

England & Wales

As a child, you’ll need to get leave from the court to start proceedings.  They’ll only let you start proceedings if they’re satisfied that you have “sufficient understanding” to make the application.  Obviously, the older you are, the more likely they are to give their permission.

To apply for leave to start proceedings you’ll need to fill in form C2 ↗, and return it to your nearest court that deals with family matters.

You should also read the leaflet CB1 ↗, which contains instructions about how to fill in the form.

☞ Find out more about how to apply for a court order

Scotland

As a child, you don’t need to get leave from the court to start proceedings, unlike in the rest of the U.K.

The court is obliged to give you an opportunity to express your views, during proceedings, if they consider you sufficiently old and mature. You’re presumed (by law) to be sufficiently old and mature if you’re 12 years old or more.  This means that (if you’re 12 or over) the court must treat you as being sufficiently old and mature unless it’s proven otherwise.

☞ Find out more about how to apply for a court order

Northern Ireland

As a child, you’ll need to get leave from the court to start proceedings.  They’ll only let you start proceedings if they’re satisfied that you have “sufficient understanding” to make the application.  Obviously, the older you are, the more likely they are to give their permission.

To apply for leave to start proceedings:

  • if you want to apply to a magistrates’ court, you’ll need to fill in form C2 (FPC) ↗ and return it to your nearest magistrates’ court
  • if you want to apply to a county court, you’ll need to fill in form C2 (FCC) ↗ and return to your nearest county court

☞ Find out more about how to apply for a court order