When some children in the stepfamily have different surnames, the parent and stepparent may want everyone in the new family unit to have the same surname. However you cannot simply change a child’s last name when you remarry or set up a new partnership.
There is a common misconception that it is simple and straight forward for a parent to change their child’s surname by deed poll. This is not the case. The law is clear on the matter.
If your child has been registered under a certain surname and you wish to change it, you will need to obtain the written consent of all those who have parental responsibility for your child. This would usually be the other parent i.e. mother or father. A mother, or father, cannot change a child’s surname by herself or himself unless she or he is the only person with parental responsibility.
If agreement on the matter cannot be reached, a referral to mediation will need to be made.
In the event that written consent is refused, an application will need to be made to the Court so that the matter can be determined.
Leave of the Court will be required if you have a Child Arrangements Order (previously a Residence Order) in place. Alternatively, an application for a Specific Issue Order will be necessary.
In either of these scenarios, the Court will have your child’s welfare as the paramount consideration when determining whether to allow the change of name.
The Court will want to know why the child was registered under the original surname in the first place and the reasons for requesting that it be changed.
It will not usually be sufficient for the person applying for the Order to simply put forward that they want the child to have the same surname as them.
In cases where a father has an active role in a child’s life, the Court is likely to take the view that it is important for them possess the same surname as the paternal family. This is largely due to the fact that it is considered as an important consideration in maintaining a link between father and child. The Court will however have regard to a father’s degree of commitment to the child alongside the quality of contact between them.
For tailored advice regarding your specific circumstances, please contact our family solicitor, Nia Thomas on 01267 237441.