How can a child's name be changed?
Under 16s in England and Wales:
Children under 16 cannot formally change their names. Only those with parental responsibility can change their name in one of the following ways:
Statutory declaration - the easiest way is to use a statutory declaration which is essentially a formal statement of intention to change one's name, which has been signed under oath in the presence of a solicitor. Most organisations will accept a statutory declaration as proof of a change of name.
Deed poll - this is required for official documents such as a passport or driving licence. Specific wording must be used to create a deed poll. To put the deed poll on public record, it must be enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Birth certificate - in general, the child's name on their birth certificate can only be changed in order to correct a spelling mistake. Even if a name is changed by deed poll, the name on the birth certificate will remain the same, as it is considered a historical record. However, there are certain circumstances in which a child’s birth certificate may be changed (eg if the parents give the child a different first name and the birth was registered in the past 12 months).
Under 16s in Scotland:
As in England and Wales, children under 16 cannot formally change their name; only those with parental responsibility can. If more than one person has parental responsibilities for the child, they must all agree to the change of name.
A child’s name can be changed in one of the following ways:
Form 21 - an application for recording the change of first name(s) of children under the age of 12 months
Form 23 - an application for recording the change of first name(s) of children under the age of 16 years
Form PRF - this is a questionnaire that must be filled out where the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth and have not subsequently married
The current fee for each application is £40. Where the application is a family application, the fess is £40 for the first family member, and £10 for each subsequent family member, provided the applications are made at the same time.
These forms, along with the relevant fee, must then be sent to the National Records of Scotland, Change of Name Unit.
16 and 17-year-olds
Anyone in England, Wales or Scotland over the age of 16 can change their name informally as long as it is not for a criminal purpose.
In England and Wales, children who are aged at least 16 can choose to change their name in the same way as adults, by deed poll or with a Statutory Declaration of Name Change. However, only adults can put a deed poll on public record by enrolling it at the Royal Courts of Justice.
In Scotland, children who are aged at least 16 can choose to change their name in the same way as adults, either by deed poll (where they were not born or adopted in Scotland) or by making a statutory declaration by filling out Form 24. Deed polls operate as they do in England and Wales. Form 24, along with the relevant fee of £40, must then be sent to the National Records of Scotland, Change of Name Unit.
Who needs to give permission?
What if consent is not given?
If there is a disagreement between those with parental responsibility as to a proposed change of name, it is possible to apply to the court for a 'specific issue order'. However, the court would need to be persuaded that the change of name is in the child's best interest.
What happens if there is an absent parent?
If one of the parents with parental responsibility is absent, their consent will not necessarily be required to change the name of their child. However, reasonable steps should be taken to contact them by the parent seeking a change of name - and evidence of these steps may need to be provided when changing a name by deed poll. Applying to the court for a specific issue order will provide protection against a later challenge.
How many times can a child’s name be changed in Scotland?
The Registrar General will only allow you to record a child’s name change a certain number of times:
for a child under the age of 2, only one change of first name(s) may be recorded
for a child under the age of 16, only one change of first name(s) and one change of last name(s) may be recorded
for children over the age of 16, one change of first name(s) and up to three changes of last name(s) may be recorded. However, a five-year period must elapse between successive changes of last name
To learn more about the key legal issues parent’s should be aware of, read Parents’ rights and responsibilities.