Changing the name on your birth certificate

Births and adoptions registered in England & Wales

Close-up of birth certificate In general, a birth certificate registered in England and Wales cannot be changed — it’s considered a matter of fact — it’s a historical record of the facts at the time it was made.  However there are some exceptional cases in which the General Register Office will re-register a birth or make a correction to an existing record.

The GRO won’t charge you a fee to make a re-registration or correction, but you’ll have to pay for a new birth certificate (assuming you want one), and where supporting documentation is required (such as DNA test reports), you’ll have to pay for it to be produced.

Correcting a birth record

A correction can only be made when the information on the certificate is wrong.  The certificate cannot be corrected to show new information if your circumstances change after the birth is registered.  Therefore the only sort of correction you could make to your child's name in this way would be if it had been spelt or copied down wrongly.  Even then, unless you can prove in some way that the name on the record was wrong, and not what you intended to call your child at the time, then you won’t be able to have the record corrected.

To have your child's birth record corrected, you’ll need to show that the information originally given at the time of the registration was wrong.  You’ll have to produce documents that clearly show what the correct information should have been and these documents should be valid or dated around the date of birth.

If a correction is made, the information given on the original birth record will always be shown as it was first given, but a note will be written against the registration explaining what the correct information should be and the date when the correction was made.  Any full certificates issued from that point on will include the note in the margin.

Short birth certificates, which show only the child's correct name, sex, date and place of birth, don’t show the note in the margin.

To apply for a correction you’ll need to complete the application form ↗ from the GRO.

Correcting a birth record to remove the wrong father's details

A correction can only be made when it’s been proven either by a DNA test or a court order that the man named on the certificate isn’t the natural (i.e. biological) father of the child.

You’ll have to provide a recognised DNA test report or a court order which either states that the man named on the certificate couldn’t be the biological father, or confirms the name of the true biological father.  Only certain types of DNA tests are acceptable as evidence.  Tests shown as being for peace of mind or not suitable for legal purposes cannot be accepted.  Only DNA tests where the identities of the persons tested have been established can be used to support a correction.  The Ministry of Justice maintains a list of bodies accredited to carry out parentage DNA tests ↗.

A correction is made by inserting a note in the margin of the child's birth registration.  The note will show that the details of the named man shouldn’t have been registered.  The correcting marginal note and the original information will still appear in all full birth certificates issued from the birth entry in future.  However, the correction will not put the true father's details into the birth entry. If you want to do this, you’ll have to re-register the child's birth showing the father's details.

Short birth certificates, which show only the child's name, sex, date and place of birth, don’t show the marginal note.

To apply for a correction you’ll need to complete the application form ↗ from the GRO.

Bear in mind that removing the wrong father's details from the birth certificate doesn’t automatically remove his parental responsibility:

If the wrong father was married to the mother at the time of the birth registration

The wrong father is presumed to have parental responsibility unless it's shown to be false, by one of the following:

  • the court makes a declaration of parentage
  • he himself acknowledges that he isn’t the father
  • clear evidence is produced that he accepts he isn’t the father
  • it’s proven by a DNA test that he isn’t the father
  • it’s proven by a DNA test that someone else is the true father
If the wrong father was not married to the mother at the time of the birth registration

If the registration was made on or after 1st December 2003, the wrong father won’t lose his parental responsibility after his details are removed from the birth register entry, even if the true father's details are later added.  He can only lose his parental responsibility by order of the court.

If the registration was made before December 2003, the wrong father wouldn’t have had parental responsibility anyway (solely by being registered as the child's father).

Adding the father's details

If you’re the parents of the child, you’re unmarried and you’d like the father's details added to the birth record, then you can re-register the child's birth showing the father's details.  The new birth record replaces the original record and future birth certificates are issued from the new record.

You can change the child's surname at this point to be the mother's or father's — or a combination of the two — so long as:

  • both parents agree to the change
  • if the child is aged 16 years or over, you also have the child's written consent
  • the original birth registration doesn’t show any father's details

Note that if a man is listed as the father on the original birth certificate who is not the natural father you should first have the original birth certificate corrected, by removing his details, after which point you’ll be able to add the natural father's details.

To apply for this re-registration, you’ll need to complete the application form ↗ from the GRO.  Both parents should attend the register office for the re-registration — if this isn’t possible you’ll also need to make a statutory declaration of parentage ↗.

Registering the marriage of the child's natural parents

If you are the natural (biological) parents of your child, and you’ve got married since your child's birth, then you can re-register the child's birth showing them to be a child of your marriage.  The new birth record replaces the original record and future birth certificates are issued from the new record.

You can change the child's surname at this point to be the mother's or father's — or a combination of the two — so long as:

  • both parents agree to the change
  • if the child is aged 16 years or over, you also have the child's written consent
  • the original birth registration shows the natural father's details, or no father's details

To apply for this re-registration, you’ll need to complete the application form ↗ from the GRO.

Changing a child's forenames

You can change a child's forenames in two situations:

New forenames were given in baptism within 12 months of the birth being registered

If your child has been baptised in a Christian church, you can add the baptismal names to the register.  You’ll need to get the vicar or minister of the church where your child was baptised to complete a certificate of name given in baptism ↗.  They may charge you for this.  You should then send the certificate to the original register office where the birth was registered.

Note that only the baptismal names can be added to the register.

Your child wasn’t baptised, and you’ve given your child new forenames within 12 months of the birth being registered

In this case you’ll need to complete a certificate of name not given in baptism ↗, and send this certificate to the original register office where the birth was registered.

You can do this after 12 months have elapsed, but then you’ll also need to submit documentary evidence that the new forenames were in regular use within 12 months of registration.

In either case — whether your child has been baptised or not — the register office will update the original record to show the new names.  Any full birth certificates issued from that point on will show details of the previous name at the top of the record, with the new name appearing in full in the space at the end of the record.

Short birth certificates will show just the new name with the date and place of birth.

You should bear in mind the following restrictions:

  • You must be the mother, father or guardian of the child to change your child's forenames in this way
  • Forename changes can only be made once — any further forename changes cannot be recorded
  • You must comply with any court orders in force about the naming of your child

Births and adoptions registered in Scotland

National Records of Scotland will record in the register a change of forenames or surname for anyone:

  • whose birth was registered in Scotland
  • who is subject to a Parental Order made in Scotland
  • who has been legally adopted in Scotland
  • who is listed in the Gender Recognition Register

The change will be recorded against the original entry in the register.  If the child is under the age of 12 months, and you change only the forenames, then any future birth certificates will show only the new forenames.  In all other cases, any future birth certificates will show the new names but also your original names and any previous name changes you’ve had recorded.

The standard fee for recording such a change in the register is £ 55, including your new birth certificate, and then £ 10 for any additional certificates, although there’s a reduced rate for the recording fee if multiple family members make an application together.

There are some limitations to the changes you can make:

  • Only one change of forenames and one change of surname may be recorded for a child under the age of 16 years.
  • For people aged 16 years or over, only one change of forenames and up to three changes of surname may be recorded.
  • For people aged 16 years or over, if you’ve already changed your surname, you must wait 5 years before you can change your surname again.

To apply for a change to you or your child's name, you’ll have to complete one of the forms below.  For children under the age of 16 years, everyone with parental responsibilities must sign the form.  People aged 16 years or over should apply on their own behalf.  There’s a leaflet with further details ↗ available from NRS.

  • To change only the forenames of a child under the age of 12 months, you’ll need to complete application form 21 ↗
  • To change the forenames or surname of a child under the age of 16 years, you’ll need to complete application form 23 ↗
  • To change the forenames or surname of anyone aged 16 years or over, you’ll need to complete application form 24 ↗
  • If the parents of the child weren’t married at the time of the birth and haven’t got married since, or if the father's details don’t appear on the birth entry, then you should also complete application form PRF ↗

Why you might want to change your name by deed poll instead

Although Scots law allows changes to the birth and adoption registers that aren’t permissible in England and Wales, a person whose birth or adoption was registered in Scotland can nonetheless make use of a deed poll to change their name — their deed poll will be accepted by all U.K. government departments.

You might therefore consider changing your name by deed poll if:

  • you don’t want your birth certificate to be permanently changed — most people would want to adopt a new name, but keep their birth record intact, in the same way that a woman (traditionally) takes her husband’s surname on marriage
  • you’ve changed your name the maximum number of times permissible by NRS, and you want to change it again
  • you’re aged 16 years or over, and you’ve had your surname changed within the last 5 years, and you want to change it again before the 5 year period is over
  • you want to keep the change of name private.  Bear in mind that changing your name with NRS records the name change on a public register and anyone would have access to the change of name.  If you’re a victim of domestic violence, for example, it may be in your interests not to have the change recorded publicly.
  • you want to change your name more cheaply.  NRS will charge you a base fee of £ 55, assuming you want a new birth certificate to be issued.
  • you want to change your name more quickly.  NRS will take up to 2 weeks to process your application.
  • you want to change the name of a child who is resident in Scotland, and you don't have consent from everyone with parental responsibilities.  It’s enough to have the consent of only one person with parental responsibilities, provided they’ve consulted everyone else with parental responsibilities, as far as practical, and taken their views into account.

Births and adoptions registered in Northern Ireland

Adding the father's details

If you’re the parents of the child, you’re unmarried and you’d like the father's details added to the birth record, then you can re-register the child's birth showing the father's details.  The new birth record replaces the original record and future birth certificates are issued from the new record.

You can change the child's forenames or surname at this point — so long as:

  • both parents agree to the change
  • if the child is aged 16 years or over, you also have the child's written consent
  • the original birth registration doesn’t show any father's details

To apply for this re-registration, you’ll need to complete application form GRO 12 ↗ from the GRONI.  Both parents should attend the register office for the re-registration.

Registering the marriage of the child's natural parents

If you are the natural (biological) parents of your child, and you’ve got married since your child's birth, then you can re-register the child's birth showing them to be a child of your marriage.  The new birth record replaces the original record and future birth certificates are issued from the new record.

You can change the child's forenames or surname at this point — so long as:

  • both parents agree to the change
  • if the child is aged 16 years or over, you also have the child's written consent
  • the original birth registration shows the natural father's details, or no father's details

To apply for this re-registration, you’ll need to complete application form GRO 15 ↗ from the GRONI.

Recording a change of name generally

The General Register Office for Northern Ireland will record in the register a change of forenames or surname for anyone:

  • whose birth was registered in Northern Ireland
  • who has been legally adopted in Northern Ireland

The change will be recorded against the original entry in the register, although the original details won’t actually be removed (the Registrar will make an annotation to the entry).

The standard fee for recording such a change in the register is £ 50, including your new birth certificate, and then £ 8 for any additional certificates, although there’s a reduced rate for the recording fee if multiple family members make an application together.

There are some limitations to the changes you can make:

  • Only one change of forenames and one change of surname may be recorded for a child under the age of 18 years.
  • For people aged 18 years or over, only one change of forenames and up to three changes of surname may be recorded.
  • For people aged 18 years or over, if you’ve already changed your surname, you must wait 5 years before you can change your surname again.

To apply for a change to you or your child's name, you’ll have to complete one of the forms below and sign it in the presence of a solicitor, Justice of the Peace, or Lay Magistrate.  For children under the age of 18 years, everyone with parental responsibility must sign the form.  People aged 18 years or over should apply on their own behalf.

Bear in mind that a solicitor (in Northern Ireland) will normally make a charge for witnessing your form (a Justice of the Peace or Lay Magistrate will witness it for free).

Why you might want to change your name by deed poll instead

Although Northern Ireland law allows changes to the birth and adoption registers that aren’t permissible in England and Wales, a person whose birth or adoption was registered in Northern Ireland can nonetheless make use of a deed poll to change their name — their deed poll will be accepted by all U.K. government departments.

You might therefore consider changing your name by deed poll if:

  • you don’t want your birth certificate to be permanently changed — most people would want to adopt a new name, but keep their birth record intact, in the same way that a woman (traditionally) takes her husband’s surname on marriage
  • you’ve changed your name the maximum number of times permissible by the GRONI, and you want to change it again
  • you’re aged 18 years or over, and you’ve had your surname changed within the last 5 years, and you want to change it again before the 5 year period is over
  • you want to keep the change of name private.  Bear in mind that changing your name with the GRONI records the name change on a public register and anyone would have access to the change of name.  If you’re a victim of domestic violence, for example, it may be in your interests not to have the change recorded publicly.
  • you want to change your name more cheaply.  The GRONI will charge you a base fee of £ 50, assuming you want a new birth certificate to be issued.
  • you want to change your name more quickly.  The GRONI will take up to 3 weeks to process your application.