Can I Change My Child’s Surname?
Posted on 11th June 2020
Our Lancaster Family Lawyers answer the most common queries we receive about changing a child’s surname:
What is a child arrangements order?
The child arrangements order regulates with whom a child should live and usually when a child arrangements order is in force, the order will provide that no person can cause the child to be known by a new surname. If you want to move abroad with your child, then your child arrangement order may prevent you from doing so, more on that here.
So, what do I do if I want to change my child’s surname and I have a child arrangements order?
The father of my child does not have parental responsibility; can I change my child’s name?
The case of Re C addressed this issue and it would appear that the Court’s view is that would be good practice, even in cases where the father does not have parental responsibility, to seek written consent from the father.
I have a residency order; can I change my child’s name?
Again this issue was looked at in the case of Re C where the Family Court seemed to indicated that when there is joint parental responsibility, regardless of whether or not there is a residency order, either permission from the Court or written consent from anyone else with parental responsibility should be sought.
Will the Court give me permission to change my child’s name?
The court will base any decision on the Welfare Principle, whilst “welfare” is not defined, Section 1(3) of the Children Act sets out the factors that the judge should consider:
(a)the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b)his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c)the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d)his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e)any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f)how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g)the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
Although it should be noted that the Family Court will be reluctant to change the surname of any child unless it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
Am I likely to be successful in an application to change my child’s surname?
The Family Law Court will consider factors such as embarrassment to the child and parent of having different surnames, how the child feels about their current surname, whether the child wants the new surname and links and relations the child may have to the parent’s surname they are giving up.
Although there is no set recipe for success when it comes to an application to change a child’s name. In the case of W v A (Child: Surname) 1981 both parents had remarried and the mother wanted to emigrate to Australia with her second husband, take the two children from her first marriage with her and change the children’s surnames to the new husband’s surname. The Judge held that the children should keep their father’s surname stressing that a change of surname was a serious issue and it was not in the children’s best interests to change their names. Indeed, the judge disregarded the Children’s wishes entirely as he felt that they had been influenced by their mother too much. The case of Re F (Child: Surname) 1993 followed and it was reiterated that allowing a child to be known by a different surname was an important matter not to be undertaken lightly. Dawson v Wearmouth 1999 further echoed that there should be particular circumstances to justify the change of name.
One example where such an application may be successful would be in circumstances where the child’s father is a convicted criminal and the children may be victimised because of the association with the name. What remains clear is that the Courts favour the status quo when it come to the changing of a Child’s surname.
Should you require Family Law advice in relation to a Child Arrangements Order or a Childs change of name, contact MG Legal now via email@example.com or call 01524 581 306.
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