Child’s surname – How to Change it and Things to Consider

If there is a child arrangements order (CAO) in force, it will require the written consent of all parties with parental responsibility, or a court order, to enable the change of a child’s surname. Increasingly, the courts have taken the view that in circumstances where no CAO is in place or the father does not hold parental responsibility, his permission should be sought in any event. If this is not given, then an application should be made to the court for a specific issue order.

When considering any request for a change to a child’s surname, the court will consider the welfare principle. Generally, the court is reluctant to change the child’s surname unless it is in the interests of the child to do so. The court will consider factors such as embarrassment to the child and the parent of having different surnames, the child’s wishes and to some extent, the child’s original surname if it is important to retain links and connections to that parent, wider family or an ethnic cultural link.

In W v A [1981], the court consider the request by a mother to change the surname of her two children, aged 12 and 14. both children described their wish to change their surname to the court, in anticipation of emigrating to Australia with their mother and her new husband. After being interviewed by the judge, it was decided that the children should retain their original surname. The court said that the idea of changing a name was so significant, it had to be shown to be in the children’s best interests in order to justify taking such serious steps. In this case, the court felt that the threshold had not been met and the original surnames remained in place.

This principle was later followed in the leading case of Dawson v Wearmouth [1999], where the House of Lords held by a majority that the presumption should be that there should be no change of surname, unless it was demonstrated that particular circumstances justified the change.

Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. If you want to discuss your child’s change of surname with one of our specialist solicitors, contact us on 01234 889777 to take advantage of our free initial consultation service.


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  1. Pingback: Mumsnet - changing a name through regret or necessity - Hunter & Uro

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