Changing your child’s name without consent from everyone with parental responsibility
To change the name of a child resident in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, or overseas, you must get consent from everyone with parental responsibility. Official bodies will insist on seeing consent from each person in writing.
To change the name of a child resident in Scotland, you must consult with everyone with parental responsibilities and rights, and take their views into account. However, you can still change your child’s name even if someone with parental responsibilities and rights doesn’t agree with it.
What can I do if I’ve lost contact with my child’s other parent?
Even if the other parent has chosen not to have any contact with you and your child — or they haven’t had any contact for many years — they won’t have lost their parental responsibility, and you’ll still have to get their consent to change your child’s name.
If you haven’t got their contact details any more, you can try to get in touch with them again.
What can I do if someone with parental responsibility doesn’t give their consent?
It’s difficult to change your child’s name if one parent doesn’t agree — and there’s certainly no guarantee of success. Your options are:
Try to reach a compromise
If your child has their other parent's surname, and you want to take it away and replace it with your own surname, then it’s quite likely that the other parent won’t agree.
Consider just adding your own surname — to make a double-barrelled surname — and thus not removing any names. You don’t have to have a hyphen between the two surnames, and you can arrange them in any order. Using the surnames Smith and Jones, for example, you could choose from:
- Smith Jones
- Jones Smith
Wait until your child is 16 years old
When your child is 16, they can legally change their own name — without their parents’ consent. If your child is nearly 16, it may be easier to just wait until they can change it themselves.
Apply for a court order
You can apply for a Specific Issue Order to change your child’s name, and the court will decide whether or not to give you permission.
Getting a court order to change your child’s surname is usually quite difficult. Courts tend to refuse any changes to a child’s surname because a child’s surname is seen as something fundamental, and an important part of their identity. Even if one parent has had no contact for many years, it’s still seen as important for a child to have the absent parent’s surname, because it may be the last remaining link to them.
Getting a court order to change your child’s forenames is easier, but parents are more likely to agree about forenames anyway — it’s generally the surname which causes disagreements.
It’s also possible to apply for a Specific Issue Order to remove the other parent’s parental responsibility (instead of just dealing with the name change). This is a much more extreme step to take, because it will permanently take away any duties that the parent has to their child — and the courts tend to be strongly in favour of parents keeping parental responsibility. It might be appropriate though, if, for example, the other parent has abused your child, or they’ve gone to prison for a violent or sexual crime.
In all cases, a court will only grant you a court order if there are clear reasons why it would be in the best interests of the child. Bear in mind that the parents’ interests are only a secondary concern in the courts' eyes.