How to apply for a court order to change your child’s name

You can apply for a court order to get permission to change your child’s name if you can’t get consent to the change of name from the other parent with parental responsibility for your child.

You should first consider all the alternatives to getting a court order. Applying for a court order is difficult and should be only used as a last resort, and the court would certainly expect you to have tried to compromise with the other parent first.

Before applying for any kind of court order you should try to assess:

  • how likely it is that the court will agree with you and grant the order
  • what kind of effect the process will have on you and your child
  • how much the application will cost in terms of money and your time

A solicitor can help you work out these things, and can help you decide if applying for a court idea is a good idea for you and your child. A solicitor, of course, is an extra cost, and you aren’t obliged to use a solicitor — it’s possible to make the application on your own.

What sort of court order to apply for

Normally you would apply for a Specific Issue Order for permission to change your child’s name. However any type of court order that deals with the issue of permitting the change of name is acceptable.

It’s also possible to apply for a Specific Issue Order to remove the other parent’s parental responsibility. This is an extreme step to take — the courts tend to be strongly in favour of parents keeping parental responsibility. It would only be appropriate if, for example, the other parent has abused your child, or they’ve gone to prison for a violent crime.

How to make the application

England & Wales

You need to fill in form C100 ↗ and return it to a court that deals with family matters. It’s a very detailed form and it’s important that every section is filled in correctly.

You should also read the leaflet CB1 ↗, which contains detailed instructions about how to fill in the form and make the application.

You will need to return your completed application form to the court nearest to where your child normally lives. Not all courts deal with family matters, so you should ask which is the right court (you can ask at your local county court). ☞ Find a court in England & Wales ↗

You will usually have to pay a fee of £ 215 to apply for a court order about children. You may be able to get a discount if you’re on specific benefits or have a low income. ☞ Find out if you have to pay court fees ↗

Scotland

If your child is resident in Scotland, you won’t normally need to apply for a court order to change their name. 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.

If you don’t want to consult the other parent, you should apply for a Specific Issue Order — as in the rest of the U.K.

You’ll need to prepare an initial writ in the format of form form G1 ↗ and send it to the sheriff court nearest to where your child normally lives. It’s important that the writ is set out correctly, and it’s a good idea to get a solicitor to help you.

Although you aren’t required to have a solicitor represent you in court, the procedures in the Scottish courts are generally more complex than in the rest of the U.K., so it’s recommended.

You will usually have to pay a fee of £ 87 to apply for a court order about children. You may be able to get a discount if you’re on specific benefits or have a low income. ☞ Find out if you’re entitled to an exemption from paying court fees ↗

Your application will be dealt with using the ordinary cause procedure. There’s more information about this on the Scottish Courts website ↗. You can also look at chapter 33 of the Ordinary Cause Rules ↗, which is the relevant chapter for family cases.

Northern Ireland

You need to fill in form C1 (FPC) ↗ and return it to the magistrates’ court nearest to where your child lives. It’s important that every section is filled in correctly. ☞ Find a court in Northern Ireland ↗

If the child is at risk from abuse or ill-treatment you’ll also have to fill in supplementary form C1AA (FPC) ↗. You should read the notes for guidance ↗ to help you.

You will usually have to pay a fee of £ 50 to apply for a court order about children. You may be able to get a discount if you’re on specific benefits or have a low income. ☞ Find out if you have to pay court fees ↗

You can also make the application to a county court, but you would need to fill in form C1 (FCC) ↗ instead, and the fee would be £ 75. If the child is at risk from abuse, you’d also need to fill in supplementary form C1A (FCC) ↗, using the appropriate notes for guidance ↗.

How likely it is that the court will grant the order

Changes of surname

The court tends to strongly resist consenting to changes of surname, because:

  • the initial registration of the child’s name is thought to be a profound matter
  • the child’s surname is seen as an important link to their father (or mother, as the case may be)
  • the child’s surname is an important part of the child’s identity — perhaps even more so when that parent is absent
  • it’s thought that it’s becoming gradually more acceptable for children to bear a different surname from other members of their family, and so wanting to fit in with the rest of a family is not given a lot of weight

There must be very clear reasons why it’s in the best interests of the child, to justify a change of surname. The best interests of the child are the courts’ paramount consideration, and short-term issues such as convenience and avoiding confusion aren’t given much weight.

If your child bears the surname of an absent parent, then your application is more likely to succeed the longer they have been absent for, and the smaller their contribution to your child’s upbringing — and even more so if their contribution has actually been negative or harmful.

The court will take a child’s views into account, and if the child themself wants to change surname the court is more likely to agree. However, your child’s wishes actually count for surprisingly little, although it also depends on how old your child is. The older and more mature the child is, the more weight will be given to their opinions.

If your child currently has one parent’s name, you will find it much easier to get permission to only add your own surname (making a double-barrelled name) — and not remove the other parent’s surname — because then you would not break the link of identity to that parent.

Changes of forenames

In general, the court is more likely to consent to changes of forenames, because they don’t have the same kind of link to the child’s parents that their surname has.

As with disputes about surnames, the court will make their decision based on what they think is in the best interests of the child, and if the child is sufficiently old and mature, they will give a lot of weight to the child’s own opinions.

If there is a dispute about a young child, however, the court will tend to resist to changes of forenames, because:

  • the initial registration of the child’s name is thought to be a profound matter (as with the surname)
  • forenames are thought to be less concrete in character than surnames, and — in practice — a child can be called by different forenames from what’s written on their birth certificate

Thus — especially for young children — there must be clear reasons why it’s in the best interests of the child, to justify a change of forenames.