Advice for parents whose child’s name has or may have been changed without their consent

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.

Sections in this article

1. Do you have parental responsibility for your child?

If you are the mother

A mother automatically acquires parental responsibility for her child at birth.

If you are the father and were married to the mother

You have parental responsibility for your child if you were married to the mother when your child was born or if you married the mother at any time after your child was born (except for births registered in Northern Ireland and the Bailiwick of Jersey where a father does not acquire parental responsibility if he married the mother after the child was born).

If you are the father and you have never been married to the mother

If you have never been married to the mother, you automatically acquire parental responsibility for your child if you are recorded on your child’s birth certificate but only if the birth is registered in the United Kingdom from:

  • 1st December 2003, for births registered in England or Wales.
  • 4th May 2006, for births registered in Scotland.
  • 15th April 2002, for births registered in Northern Ireland.

If you are named as a parent on your child’s adoption certificate

You have parental responsibility for your child if you are named as a parent on your child’s adoption certificate. Parental responsibility is not lost upon separation or divorce from another parent named on the adoption certificate. Biological parents lose parental responsibility upon adoption.

  • 1st November 2013, for births registered in the Isle of Man.

    Note: The above dates are when the birth was registered at the register office – not the date of birth.

For births registered in the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, an unmarried father does not acquire parental responsibility if recorded on his child’s birth certificate.

For births registered outside the United Kingdom (whether or not also registered at a British Embassy), an unmarried father does not acquire parental responsibility if named on the birth certificate.

Unmarried fathers can also acquire parental responsibility by:

  • Obtaining a parental responsibility order from a court.
  • Entering into a court registered parental responsibility agreement with the mother.
  • Being named on a residence order.

If you were or are in a same sex civil partnership or marriage

You have parental responsibility for your child if you were in a same sex civil partnership or marriage at the time of the treatment (e.g. donor insemination or fertility treatment). Parental responsibility is not lost upon separation, dissolution or divorce.

2. If you have parental responsibility

If you have parental responsibility for your child and your child is still under the age of 16, the next step is to establish if your child’s name has been changed.

It is a popular misconception that a child’s name has been changed if a Deed Poll has been issued for the child. A child’s name is only considered to have changed when the Deed Poll document has been used to get the child’s name records changed with, for example, the child’s school and doctors. Therefore, if you believe your child’s name records have been, you should contact your child’s school and doctors and ask what name your child is known by (in our experience a child’s school and doctors are the first places that will be notified). With your child’s school, you need to find out what your child’s name is in the school’s register. It could be that the parent has simply asked for your child to be called by a different name for general day-to- day usage and the school’s register still shows the birth name.

You can also write to the passport office to see if a passport has been issued for your child in a different name. Their address is:

HM Passport Office
Globe House
89 Eccleston Square
London
SW1V 1PN

You should enclose evidence that you have parental responsibility for your child i.e. the document that gave you parental responsibility, for example, marriage certificate, birth certificate or court order etc.

3. If your child’s name has been changed

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.

4. If your child’s name has not been changed

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.

5. What we can do

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.