It’s not unusual for parents who have split up to want to change their child’s name, or to name a child in the ‘family’ name pertaining to the family the child lives in. Such applications can be made under the Children Act 1989.
If there is already a child arrangements order in force, then no one can change the child’s surname wihtout the written consent of all of those with parental responsibility, or the leave of the court. If all of those with PR consent to the change, a child’s surname can be changed by way of a Change of Name Deed.
The main case law that sets out the principles that should be used in deciding such cases is Dawson v Wearmouth  UKHL 18. The case reviewed the principles to be applied in change of name cases and held generally that an order should not be made ‘unless there is some evidence that this would lead to an improvement from the point of view of the welfare of the child‘. The importance of the name given at birth was reflected.
Gaining the court’s permission for such changes is not easy, however there are some circumstances where such an application is almost always certain:
- Where the child’s father was a career criminal
- Where the child’s father was convicted of sexual abuse
- To take into account common practice cultural customs
- Where there was a real risk of abduction
The court does not take changing a child’s name lightly and each case will be decided on its facts. The paramount consideration is tha tthe child’s welfare has to be central to the decision, and again, no order will be made unless it is in the child’s best interests.
If you would like further assistance with this matter, please feel free to contact us.