As family lawyers, we’ve helped many couples to navigate the process of separation when there are children involved. Unfortunately, there may be cases where you and your ex-partner are not able to agree on various arrangements for your child/children. For example, sometimes one parent may wish to change a child’s name without the agreement of the other parent. So, what is the legal stance in circumstances such as this?
Having parental responsibility for your child means that the other parent has a legal obligation to include you when they make important decisions about the child’s life. The law says that a person with parental responsibility for a child is able to change any part of that child’s name, whether that’s their forename, surname, or both. They’re also legally allowed to add or remove names or change the spelling. However, consent of both parties with parental responsibility is required.
Distinguishing Between a Legal Name and a ‘Known As’ Name
A child’s legal name will be the name on their birth certificate which is used for legal, administrative and official purposes, and can be done by deed poll. However, there is also something called a ‘known as’ name. Although a legal name may be on the birth certificate, GP’s and schools, for example, often give parents and carers the option to register a ”known as” name as well as the child’s legal name. Although the legal name will be used on documentation such as school and medical records, the known as name can be used on less official documentation, and teachers could address the child by their known as name.
How do you Change a Child’s Name?
The process of changing a child’s name happens via deed poll. If the child is under 18, all those with parental responsibility must agree to the change in surname and a Court Order is needed to enrol the change in surname at the Royal Courts of Justice. However, what if you want to change your child’s name but your ex has parental responsibility and doesn’t agree?
In an ideal world, parents would make decisions like this together, but as disputes are common during the breakdown of a relationship, Courts will often assist. In this case, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order which will determine a number of factors, for example, who the children will live with, the regularity of their time spent with the other parent, or indeed, what their legal name should be. Where there is a Child Arrangements Order in place, the child cannot usually use a known-as name as the legislation prevents any person causing the child to be known by a different surname other than if they have the written consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child or consent from the court.
It’s also worth noting here that it is possible to apply for a Specific Issue Order which can decide a particular issue, such as where the child is to be being educated or medical treatment a child is to receive. There’s also the option of a Prohibited Steps Order, which can prevent one parent doing something, such as changing your child’s name or moving abroad without the other parent’s consent.
Child Arrangement Orders and More
Here at Vines Legal, we’ve got extensive knowledge of child arrangements, and years of experience in helping our clients through the process of separation and divorce. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, and want to ensure that arrangements regarding your children are decided upon as smoothly and amicably as possibly, please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation. We’d be happy to explain all of the options available to you in a friendly, professional manner.