This article gives advice to parents whose child’s name has or may have been changed without their consent and is applicable if the child is still under the age of 16 (when a young person reaches the age of 16, parental consent is not required for a change of name).
The first step is to determine if your consent was required to change your child’s name. Your consent would be required if you have parental responsibility for your child.
If you have parental responsibility for your child and your child’s name has been changed without your consent, we suggest you first write to the other parent requesting your child’s name is changed back (send your letter by Royal Mail’s Signed-For service). If the other parent fails to do so after a reasonable time (say one month), you should seek legal advice from a family lawyer about a remedy, which may result in going to court for an order forcing the parent to change your child’s name back.
If your child has been issued with a passport in another name and HM Passport Office are satisfied that your consent should have been obtained, the passport will be cancelled, which means it will not be able to be used.
If it transpires that your child’s name has not been changed and you are concerned the other parent may attempt to change your child’s name records without your consent, you should make record holders such as the passport office and your child’s school and doctors aware of your concerns. You should ask the record holders you contact to let you know if the other parent requests your child’s name records are changed – even if the other parent presents a letter of consent with your signature on it.
If your child’s birth or adoption was registered in Scotland, you can write to the General Register Office for Scotland (Change of Name Unit, 3 West Register Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YT), requesting a note be made in the birth register to contact you should the other parent apply to have your child’s name change recorded in the birth register.
Unfortunately, there is very little we can do if the other parent wrongly obtained a Deed Poll from us to change your child’s name. We accept applications from parents in good faith. In any case, there is no way we are able to check what a parent tells us about who has parental responsibility for your child. Furthermore, the Data Protection Act, 2018 requires us to keep confidential all the information we hold about the applicant parent and the child. In fact the Information Commissioner’s Office says about requests for information about children:
“Even if a child is too young to understand the implications of subject access rights, it is still the right of the child rather than of anyone else such as a parent or guardian. So it is the child who has a right of access to the information held about them, even though in the case of young children these rights are likely to be exercised by those with parental responsibility for them.”
Please note, even if we have issued a Deed Poll to change your child’s name, it does not mean your child’s name has been changed. We also point out that a Deed Poll may have been obtained from one of the many thousands of solicitors in the UK or from one of the many cheap Internet websites who issue Deed Polls for children on a no-questions-asked basis. If the other parent had applied to us for a Deed Poll, we would have received either a written statement declaring your whereabouts were unknown or forged your signature on a letter of consent. In our experience, parents do not use our service if it means incriminating themselves by making a false declaration or forging a signature. A parent is more likely to use one of the cheap Internet sites where a Deed Poll is issued from the information provided on an online application form. During the past 10 years, we have issued over 200,000 Deed Polls for children and we only know of a handful of applications where a parent with custody made a false declaration about the other parent’s whereabouts being unknown. Similarly, we have only been made aware of a handful of occasions where a parent forged the other parent’s signature on a letter of consent.
Of course, if a court requires further information from us, or copies of any documents we hold about the Deed Poll application and about our subsequent issue of a Deed Poll to change your child’s name, we will willingly provide the court this information upon receipt of a court order.