Changing the name on your birth certificate (England & Wales)

Close-up of birth certificate

A birth certificate registered in England and Wales cannot normally be changed.  It’s considered a matter of fact — it’s a historical record of the facts at the time of the birth.

There are some cases where the General Register Office (GRO) will re-register a birth or make a correction to an existing record.

There are also special rules for a child whose forenames were changed under the age of 12 months.

The GRO charges —

  • £ 90 to make a correction to a name
  • £ 40 to make a change to the forenames of a child under 12 months

The GRO doesn’t charge a fee to make a re-registration, but you’ll have to pay for a new birth certificate.  You’ll also have to pay for any supporting documentation which is needed (such as DNA test reports).

Corrections

Correcting a birth record

A correction can only be made when the information on a birth certificate is wrong about the facts at the time of birth.  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 within 3 months of 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 form BC2 ↗ and send it to the GRO.

It costs £ 90 to make an application.  (There is a lower fee of £ 75 for other kinds of (minor) corrections that can be dealt with by a local register office — but corrections to names should be sent to the GRO.)

This fee is non-refundable — regardless of whether the correction is accepted or not.

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.

Getting a DNA test

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 a test for “legal purposes” can be accepted.  “Home” tests, or tests for peace of mind or personal knowledge, or which are 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 DNA test must be done by one of the following accredited laboratories:

This list is valid until the Ministry of Justice reviews it in August 2021.

Bear in mind that the price listed does not include the cost of collecting DNA samples.  Your samples must be taken by an independent third party such as a GP or nurse, and your GP surgery may charge for this service.

You can also ask the laboratory to collect your samples but again, there will be an extra charge for this.  Most laboratories do not list prices for sample collection, so you have to ring them for a quote.

In most cases, the mother’s DNA is not needed to get conclusive results for a paternity test.  However, there are occasions when her DNA is needed to strengthen results, and the laboratory will ask for a sample from the mother.  If possible, it is best for the mother to submit her sample from the beginning to prevent delays if her DNA turns out to be needed.

How a correction is made

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.

It costs £ 90 for a correction removing the wrong father’s details, which is non-refundable regardless of whether the correction is accepted or not.

Effect on parental responsibility

The effect on parental responsibility may depend on whether the parents were married:

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 before December 2003, the wrong father would never have had parental responsibility by virtue of being registered on the child’s birth certificate.  If he has got parental responsibility another way (e.g. a Parental Responsibility Order) he won’t lose it even if he is taken off the birth certificate or shown not to be the biological father.

If the registration was made on or after 1st December 2003, the father will lose his parental responsibility if it is proven that he isn’t the true father.  In the case of Z (Embryo Adoption: Declaration of Non-Parentage) [2018] EWFC 68 ↗, the judge held:

“[I]f [the man registered on the child’s birth certificate] is not the father he does not have parental responsibility because section 4 CA 1989 ↗ does not apply (to an individual who is not the father).”

Unfortunately, some organisations hold that 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.  According to those organisations, he can only lose his parental responsibility by order of the court.

Re-registrations

Re-registering a child’s birth is free but can only be done in the following two cases:

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

Bear in mind that if a man is listed as the father on the original birth certificate who is not the biological father you should first have the original birth certificate corrected, by removing his details, after which point you’ll be able to add the biological 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 ↗.

Re-registering the birth with the father’s details added is free.

Registering the marriage of the child’s 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 him or her 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 biological 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.

Re-registering the birth after the parents getting married is free.

Changing a child’s forenames (within 12 months of registration)

You can change a child’s forenames on their birth certificate if their birth was registered within the last 12 months.

You cannot change the surname in this way, but you can add or take away forenames, or even change them completely to something else.

How you apply depends on whether your child was baptised:

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.  There is a statutory fee of £ 1 for doing this.  You should then send the certificate to the original register office where the birth was registered.

Bear in mind 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 given not 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 bottom of the birth certifciate.

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

You’ll need to bring the completed certificate (see above) to the local register office where the child was born.
You’ll need to pay a fee of £ 40 to have the new names added to the birth register.

Restrictions

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