If your child’s name has been changed without your consent

Generally speaking, it’s unlawful to change a child’s name without the consent of everyone with parental responsibility or a court order giving leave to the change of name.

However, changing a child’s name without the other parent’s consent does not normally amount to fraud, unless the other parent has —

  • applied for a passport in the new name
  • forged letters of consent

Finding out if your child’s name has been changed

If you want to find out if your child’s name has been changed, the easiest thing to do (if possible) is to simply ask your child what name they’re known by, e.g. at school, their doctor, school and so on.

Your child’s legal name is simply the name they are generally known by (whether they had a deed poll or not).

You can also (as a parent) ask your child’s school and doctor etc. directly (if you’ve got parental responsibility).

Bear in mind that if your child has become called and known by their new name for all purposes, then their legal name will have been changed — even if the process of changing their name was done without your consent, and was therefore unlawful.

What if the other parent has already got a deed poll?

Even if your child’s other parent has already got (and signed) a deed poll, this does not prove that your child’s name has been changed.

When a person shows a child’s deed poll to a record holder (such as a school), that organisation has a legal responsibility to check —

  • who’s got parental responsibility for the child
  • that the proper consent to the change of name has been given (see following section)

Thus a child’s name, notwithstanding the fact that there be any deed poll, is the name the child is commonly known by.

What the law says

England & Wales

If your child lives in England & Wales, your consent to your child’s change of name is legally needed if you’ve got parental responsibility for your child.

☞ Check who’s got parental responsibility for your child

Your consent needs to be in writing —

  • if your child is subject to a court order
  • to apply for a passport in the child’s new name

What we can and cannot do

When someone applies for a child deed poll with us, we work out who’s got parental responsibility, and ask for confirmation that everyone with parental responsibility has agreed to the change of name.

We don’t ask people to send in written consent because — in the end — it’s the legal responsibility of each organisation that holds records of the child’s name (e.g. doctors / schools) to check that everyone with parental responsibility has given consent, before they update their records.  So if someone lied to us about having got consent, they would end up with a useless document that wouldn’t be accepted.

Of course, if we’re made aware though (e.g. by the father) that consent has not been given to a change of name, we would refuse to process the application.

However we cannot “cancel” a change of name, or otherwise stop it from happening.

How you can stop or reverse an unlawful change of name

If any organisation (e.g. school, doctor) has already changed your child’s name without your consent (assuming you do have parental responsibility and your consent was thus legally needed), then you should simply explain to them that you’ve got parental responsibility and you didn’t give consent — and ask them to change the name back.

If they refuse, you can (in theory) take the matter to court, and force them to change your child’s records back.  Generally speaking, though, if official organisations realise that their records have been wrongly changed (and that they’ve done something unlawful), they’re quite happy to correct the mistake.

The same goes for HM Passport Office — you should complain directly to them if you believe your child was issued a passport in a new name (without your consent).  HM Passport Office are actually very strict and careful about getting the right consent from each parent, but if a false declaration or forged document was submitted as part of a passport application, they would take the matter very seriously and they would reclaim and cancel any passport they’ve issued.

If your child’s name was changed more than a year ago

We recommend that if your child has been known by their new name for more than a year, you consider very carefully if it’s the best thing for your child to have it changed back again — and the older your child is (and the longer the new name has been in use), the more this is true.

It may be very upsetting for a child to have their name changed back suddenly, and against their wishes.  Therefore, it may not be the best thing for your child.

Another option is that you agree to let the child be known by the new name at organisations where they’re already known by that new name, but not on their passport and any records where the old name is still in use.

Scotland

If your child lives in Scotland, your consent to your child’s change of name is normally needed if you’ve got parental responsibilities and rights for your child.

☞ Check who’s got parental responsibilities and rights for your child

However — in Scots law — if you want to change your child’s name, it’s enough that you —

  • take steps so far as practicable to contact everyone with parental responsibilities and rights, and have regard to their views (if any)
  • have regard to your child’s views (if any) — taking account of their age and maturity
  • bear in mind that changing your child’s name is something very important
  • have very good reasons for changing your child’s name

(If your child is over 12 years old, it’s presumed that they are of sufficient age and maturity to form a view about their own name.)

Bear in mind though that HM Passport Office will normally want to see a signed letter of consent from the other parent, as with children in the rest of the U.K.

What we can and cannot do

When someone applies for a child deed poll with us, we work out who’s got parental responsibilities and rights, and ask for confirmation that everyone with parental responsibilities and rights has been consulted about the change of name — and given the opportunity to express their views.

We don’t ask people to send in proof of this (written or otherwise) because — in the end — it’s the legal responsibility of each organisation that holds records of the child’s name (e.g. doctors / schools) to check that everyone with parental responsibilities and rights has been consulted, before they update their records.  So if someone lied to us, they would end up with a useless document that wouldn’t be accepted.

However we cannot “cancel” a change of name, or otherwise stop it from happening.

How you can stop or reverse an unlawful change of name

If any organisation (e.g. school, doctor) has already changed your child’s name without you being consulted (assuming you do have parental responsibilities and rights), then you should simply explain to them that you’ve got parental responsibilities and rights and you weren’t consulted (as you must be by law) — and ask them to change the name back.

If they refuse, you can (in theory) take the matter to court, and force them to change your child’s records back.  Generally speaking, though, if official organisations realise that their records have been wrongly changed (and that they’ve done something unlawful), they’re quite happy to correct the mistake.

The same goes for HM Passport Office — you should complain directly to them if you believe your child was issued a passport in a new name (without you being consulted).  HM Passport Office are actually very strict and careful about getting the right consent from each parent, but if a false declaration or forged document was submitted as part of a passport application, they would take the matter very seriously and they would reclaim and cancel any passport they’ve issued.

If you were consulted about the change of name, and you want to stop your child’s name being changed, you’ll need to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order in the Sheriff courts.

If your child’s name was changed more than a year ago

We recommend that if your child has been known by their new name for more than a year, you consider very carefully if it’s the best thing for your child to have it changed back again — and the older your child is (and the longer the new name has been in use), the more this is true.

It may be very upsetting for a child to have their name changed back suddenly, and against their wishes.  Therefore, it may not be the best thing for your child.

Another option is that you agree to let the child be known by the new name at organisations where they’re already known by that new name, but not on their passport and any records where the old name is still in use.

Northern Ireland

If your child lives in Northern Ireland, your consent to your child’s change of name is legally needed if you’ve got parental responsibility for your child.

☞ Check who’s got parental responsibility for your child

Your consent needs to be in writing —

  • if your child is subject to a court order
  • to apply for a passport in the child’s new name

What we can and cannot do

When someone applies for a child deed poll with us, we work out who’s got parental responsibility, and ask for confirmation that everyone with parental responsibility has agreed to the change of name.

We don’t ask people to send in written consent because — in the end — it’s the legal responsibility of each organisation that holds records of the child’s name (e.g. doctors / schools) to check that everyone with parental responsibility has given consent, before they update their records.  So if someone lied to us about having got consent, they would end up with a useless document that wouldn’t be accepted.

Of course, if we’re made aware though (e.g. by the father) that consent has not been given to a change of name, we would refuse to process the application.

However we cannot “cancel” a change of name, or otherwise stop it from happening.

How you can stop or reverse an unlawful change of name

If any organisation (e.g. school, doctor) has already changed your child’s name without your consent (assuming you do have parental responsibility and your consent was thus legally needed), then you should simply explain to them that you’ve got parental responsibility and you didn’t give consent — and ask them to change the name back.

If they refuse, you can (in theory) take the matter to court, and force them to change your child’s records back.  Generally speaking, though, if official organisations realise that their records have been wrongly changed (and that they’ve done something unlawful), they’re quite happy to correct the mistake.

The same goes for HM Passport Office — you should complain directly to them if you believe your child was issued a passport in a new name (without your consent).  HM Passport Office are actually very strict and careful about getting the right consent from each parent, but if a false declaration or forged document was submitted as part of a passport application, they would take the matter very seriously and they would reclaim and cancel any passport they’ve issued.

If your child’s name was changed more than a year ago

We recommend that if your child has been known by their new name for more than a year, you consider very carefully if it’s the best thing for your child to have it changed back again — and the older your child is (and the longer the new name has been in use), the more this is true.

It may be very upsetting for a child to have their name changed back suddenly, and against their wishes.  Therefore, it may not be the best thing for your child.

Another option is that you agree to let the child be known by the new name at organisations where they’re already known by that new name, but not on their passport and any records where the old name is still in use.