How to change an adult or child name in the UK

In the modern culture that we live in today where personal relationships are more fluid, it is becoming more frequent for people to request a name change for themselves or their child.

This can happen because parents have separated and the mother no longer wants the child to have the fathers name or vice versa. It may be because a couple have started a relationship and want the children to share the same family name.

There can be many reasons why a person requests a name change, however all are unique and important to the individuals circumstances. There are two common situations that arise. These are:


Getting married in the UK

When you become married or enter into a civil partnership in the UK, you can change your name as of right to match that of your partner. The convention is for women to assume their husbands surname, but increasingly these days some men choose their wives surname. There is no legal requirement to change your surname in these circumstances, it really is a matter of choice. Similarly many women adopt the prefix “Mrs” rather than “Miss” to their name to signify their new found married status. Again, there is no legal obligation to do this as once more this is a matter of choice. If you do want to change your surname upon marriage or civil partnership, all you have to do is start using your new name and notify all your contacts and official bodies like your bank, service providers, DVLA etc. Many, but not all will want to see proof of marriage before they will change their records, and there is usually no charge for this. To avoid confusion you should change your name with all of these services and avoid using two different surnames.  


If you want to change your name for a reason other than marriage?

In the UK any person over the age of 16 is able to apply for a change of name in their own right. This can be done using a “deed poll” application. A “deed poll” is a formal legal document that certifies your official name change. This is a straightforward process and you can change your name as many times as you wish.

However, for some organizations such as Banks, a deed poll you have made yourself may not be accepted unless “enrolled with the courts”. What this means is, it has to have received a court seal in order to become a legal document.

If you want to change the name of a child aged under 16 different rules apply.

You will need either:

  • the agreement of everyone with “Parental Responsibility;” or
  • a court order

Looking at the former grounds first, “Parental responsibility”  has a legal meaning as defined under the Children Act 1989. It means having the “duties, powers, responsibilities, rights and authority” that through the law a parent of a child has in relation to the child. The term aims to place an emphasis on the duties of a parent towards their child and the rights that the parent has which are greater in status than a non parent. Basically, Parental responsibility means the rights to make decisions for the benefit of the child such as to authorise medical treatment, obtain a passport and the like. 

The mother of the child has automatic Parental responsibility. Even in the event of a divorce, they will not lose this right. A married father will also have automatic parental responsibility and they will not lose this even in the event of a divorce. However, where the father is not married, the situation is different, with no automatic right to parental responsibility. A step father or step mother does not have automatic parental responsibility, neither do grandparents, adult siblings or other relations.

There are a number of ways in which parental responsibility can be obtained including;

•           The father marrying the mother

•           For the father to apply to have his name placed on the birth certificate of the child if his name is not already listed

•           Signing a “Parental Responsibility Agreement” with the mother

•           Through an order of the Court

If you are changing the name on the former grounds ie with the agreement of everyone who has “Parental responsibility” this can be done through simply making a “deed poll.”  If you do not, then the party seeking to change the name will be required to make an application to court seeking approval from the courts to make this change of name for the child.


What happens when I have posted my Deed Poll application

The Court checks all the documentation to ensure that it follows the correct format. 

Once it is ready to process the original Deed Poll is sealed and allocated a number, which will be displayed in a round seal on the Deed.

The Court forwards the draft notice to the London Gazette (a newspaper), where it is then published. You will receive a copy of the published notice. The original Sealed Deed is returned to you as your proof of change of name.

You are then free to use your new name, notify any other bodies and provide them with the evidence they require.