What’s in a name? Rights of a child

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Q. I have recently married the father of my child, when the child was born they were registered with my surname but I would now like to change this to my marital name. How do I go about this?

A. A child’s name can be changed at any time, provided it is not to deceive or defraud another person.

There is no legal procedure which must be followed in order to change a child’s name, providing all the people who need to give their consent have done so.

The parent simply starts using the new name. A child’s forename or surname can be changed, names can be added or rearranged.

Although there is no legal way to change a child’s name, you may need evidence that a child’s name has been changed.

Changes in name or surname of people born or legally adopted in Northern Ireland can be recorded against the appropriate entry in the birth or adoption register.

Once a child’s name has been changed it can be used for all purposes, such as starting school and registering with a GP. However, evidence may be required.

Only one change of forename and one change of surname may be recorded for a child between the age of two and 18 years.

Re-registration procedures

It may be possible to re-register the birth of a child either where the mother and father of the child are not married to each other or where the mother and father of the child marry each other after the birth.

Only a Qualified person can apply to have a child’s name changed.

No child under the age of 16 has any right to object to their name being changed, unless they apply for a court order to prevent the change.

Qualified persons include:-

the father and mother of the child or where child is adopted, the adoptive parents

if one of the parents is dead, the surviving parent

if the parents of the child are not married, the mother of the child.

However, if the father has been given parental responsibility for the child, the application must be signed by both parents.

If the father won’t give his consent, the mother must apply to the courts for a change of name application

if both parents are dead or if the parents were not married and the mother is dead, then the guardian or another person with responsibility for the child.

If the parents are divorced, both signatures are required.

This means that if the parents are or have been married, neither of them can change the child’s name without the consent of the other.

Where the mother and natural father marry each other

If the mother and natural father of a child marry each other after the child’s birth, they should both apply for the re-registration of the birth to the General Register Office in order for the birth entry to show the child as having been legitimated by the marriage.

This procedure is required in all cases where the mother and natural father marry after the birth.

In the re-registration procedure, the father’s details are added to the birth entry if they are not already present, the mother’s details are changed to reflect her marital status and the child’s forename and/or surname may also be changed.

Following the re-registration procedures any subsequent birth certificates issued, both full and short, will only show the new names and details.

The original entries will not appear on either certificate.

There is no age limit in either re-registration procedure but it may be more difficult when a child is older to gain access to the necessary information to successfully re-register her/his birth.

Contact the General Register Office (GRO) for more information on re-registration.

Where the mother is not married to the child’s natural father

Where the birth of a child has been registered and no details have been given relating to the natural father, the mother and father may apply for re-registration of the birth by making a joint application.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk.