Father’s Application to Add His Surname to Child’s Name Refused

It is not unusual for a separated parent to want to change their child’s name.

But a child’s name may only be changed with the agreement of anyone who has parental responsibility for the child, or the permission of the court.

If the court is asked for permission to change the child’s name it will decide the matter by reference to what it believes to be best for the child’s welfare. This will involve consideration of such matters as the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding), the likely effect of any change, and any harm that the child may have suffered or is at risk of suffering.

Note that reasons given for changing or seeking to change a child’s name based on the fact that the child’s name is or is not the same as the parent making the application do not generally carry much weight.

Note also that where the child’s parents were not married to each other, the mother has control over registration of the child’s surname. Consequently, on an application to change the surname of the child, the degree of commitment of the father to the child, the quality of contact, if it occurs, between the father and the child, and the existence or absence of parental responsibility may be relevant.

An example of a change of name application occurred in a recent case that took place in the Family Court at Watford.

The application was made by the father, who wanted to change the child’s surname to add his surname, hyphenated with the mother’s surname.

The parents had been in a relationship, and had one child together, who was born in 2014.

The mother registered the child’s name, using her surname. The father was not included on the birth certificate, so did not have automatic parental responsibility.

In 2015 the father issued proceedings seeking a parental responsibility order, which was duly made in 2016.

Last year the father issued his change of name application.

After considering the matters referred to above the court decided to refuse the application.

The reasons for the refusal included the length of time that the child had been known by their present surname (any change of name application should ideally have been dealt with by the court in 2016) and, crucially, the fact that the child did not wish the name to be changed. The court was satisfied that the child’s wishes should be respected.

You can read the full report of the case here.

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