A parent’s wishes and feelings about their child’s name

The parents’ thoughts, wishes and feelings, if they’re made available to the court, should always be considered by the court because —

  • they can help the court decide what’s best for the child
  • what is good for a parent is often good for the child too, especially when the child lives with that parent
  • how the court’s decision affects a parent will have an indirect effect on the child

However the court must choose what it thinks is best for the child, and the parents’ wishes and feelings are subordinate to the welfare of the child.  Unlike the child’s wishes and feelings, the parents’ wishes and feelings aren’t listed as one of the criteria in subsection 1(3).

Lord Hobhouse made this clear in Dawson v Wearmouth [1999] UKHL 18 —

Once the dispute has arisen, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.  The attitude and views of the individual parents are only relevant in so far as they may affect the conduct of those persons and therefore indirectly affect the welfare of the child.

This is part of the reason why courts are reluctant to take away one of the parents’ surnames from a child, for it’s acknowledged that maintaining a shared surname helps to maintain a bond between parent and child (and that bond is of course something mutual).  Thus taking away a parent’s surname from a child can have the effect of alienating that parent — which is likely to be detrimental to the child’s welfare.