When couples separate, I am often asked whether one parent can change their child’s surname, usually to match their own surname or to match the surname of their new partner. Whilst any person over the age of 18 is entitled to change their own surname, the position is different when it comes to changing a child’s surname.
Under the laws of this country, a parent must seek the consent of everyone with parental responsibility (usually just the other parent) before they can legally change a child’s name. If the other person does not agree to the name change then you will have to think about going to Court to get an order allowing you to change the child’s name. Generally speaking, the Court will not allow a child’s name to be changed unless it can be proven that doing so would lead to some improvement in the child’s welfare.
The fact that a child does not have the same surname as the parent with whom they are living is not generally considered a good enough reason for the Court to make an order changing that child’s name. The Court will considered factors such as the child’s surname being a link to their biological father, any change in circumstances that have occurred since the child’s name was originally registered and issues that could arise in the future as well as in the present.
Factors that are likely to weigh in your favour if you are considering applying for a change of name for a child include if the other parent has not shown much commitment towards the child and they do not spend much time with the child, if you are prepared to double barrel the name to retain the other parent’s name then that might help, if your child does not have the surname of the other parent in any event or if there is a need to protect the child from a risk of harm by the other parent. The older the child is the more their views will be taken into account although this alone will not necessarily be sufficient for the Court to order a name change.