Kylie Jenner, worldwide celebrity for I’m-not-quite-sure-what, has just announced that she’s changing her son’s name from Wolf because she didn’t think the name suited him. Mustn’t have been covered in fur, howling at the moon. No word yet on what she’s changing it to, though. I’m sure you’ll be on tenterhooks until you find out. I’ll keep you updated.
I’m telling you this, not ‘cos I think you’ll care, but to show you that changing your kid’s name isn’t as uncommon as you might think. And, if it’s something you’re considering, you’ll need to know about notification letters.
First, though, you need to know about Child Deed Polls. If you’re changing your kid’s name, you’ll probably need one – unless
- you’re changing the forename within a year of the birth
- you’ve officially adopted the kid and want to give them your surname.
You can change your kid’s forename once at the registry office, as long as it’s within a year of the birth. It costs, though.
If you’ve officially adopted a kid and you’re wanting to give them your surname, you don’t need a Deed Poll – the adoption certificate is enough.
In any other case you’ll probably need a Child Deed Poll.
Get it, sign it in front of 2 witnesses, get the witnesses to sign it, you’re done. It’s easy enough.
Now, you need to let the relevant organisations know – anywhere that might have records about your kid. School, the doctors, the council, all that jazz. That’s where the notification letter comes in.
What’s a notification letter?
It’s a letter (funnily enough) you send to the authorities, along with a copy of the Child Deed Poll, letting them know you’ve changed your kid’s name. Explain the name change, refer them to the Deed Poll, and ask them to update their records.
There’s a bit of a catch, though. Everyone with parental responsibility has to sign it.
What’s parental responsibility?
You probably noticed I said ‘everyone with parental responsibility’ and not just ‘parents’. There’s a reason for that. I’m not just trying to get my word count up. Honest. Before you know what you need to include in your notification letter, you’ll need to understand what parental responsibility is. It basically means that you’re responsible for the wellbeing and upbringing of the child.
Birth mums always have parental responsibility (unless the child’s been given up for adoption).
If the mum and dad are married, the dad automatically has parental responsibility. If they aren’t married but the dad’s named on the birth certificate, he’ll have parental responsibility. Otherwise, he won’t.
If the dad doesn’t have parental responsibility, he can get it by either marrying the mum or by (successfully) applying to the court for a parental responsibility order.
What about same-sex parents?
Depends if they’re civil partners or not. If the baby was born through birth treatment (artificial insemination, fertility treatment) and the couple were civil partners at the time of treatment, then both will have parental responsibility.
If they weren’t (or aren’t) civil partners, the second parent can get parental responsibility by applying to the courts, or by becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement.
There’s adoption, too – it’s a bit of a lengthy process, but it’d give both parents parental responsibility.
Once you’ve sorted out parental responsibility, you’re ready to move onto the next step. If everyone with parental responsibility agrees to the name change, you’re all set. Get yourself over to our Child Deed Poll page and get started now. If they don’t, it gets a lot more complicated. Buckle up, buckaroos.
What if someone with parental responsibility refuses to agree to the name change?
It’s a fair bit of money, so I’ll give you a little warning – the courts don’t take name changes lightly. They won’t give you a Specific Issue Order without good reason. Have a good think before you apply – is the name change absolutely, undoubtedly, 100% in the best interests of your kid? If not, probably best to re-think your application.
Annoyingly, I can’t really give you a clear-cut example of a ‘good reason’ for a name change. Every case is judged individually – there’s no set criteria. If the other parent turned out to be a high-profile serial killer, and you’re applying to change the name because you don’t want your kid associated with that, I reckon you’d be alright there.
If you’re applying to change it out of spite ‘cos you’ve had a little barney with the other parent, you might as well throw your money away. They’d reject your claim and probably tell you to grow up.
What if I can’t get in contact with my child’s other parent?
If they’ve got parental responsibility
You’ve got to prove you’d tried to make contact – so rang any old numbers you had, searched social media, tried to contact family members. If you’ve tried all that and there’s absolutely no way of getting in touch, you can apply for a Child Deed Poll.
In your notification letter, you’ll need to mention that the other parent’s gone AWOL and you’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to make contact. Mention how long it’s been since they were last in contact – most organisations will be alright with it.
Some can get a bit iffy about it, though. I’ve heard the Passport Office can be a bit dodgy about notification letters if they aren’t signed by everyone with parental responsibility. If they do kick up a fuss, you’ll have to apply for a Specific Issue Order – and, given the circumstances, it’d probably get granted.
If they don’t have parental responsibility
You can just do it yourself. They don’t need to sign it. Only people with parental responsibility need to.
It’s considered good practice to try to contact them and ask their permission. But… y’know. You do what’s best for your kid.
What if I changed my child’s name when I had sole parental responsibility, but now the other parent wants to change it back?
Good news – the name change is still valid ‘cos you had sole responsibility at the time.
Bad news – if the other parent wants to change it back, they could apply to the courts for a Specific Issue Order.
Worse news – there’s a pretty decent chance they’ll be successful (especially if you changed the surname).
It doesn’t matter if the other parent has parental responsibility or not – it’s not unheard of for courts to grant a Specific Issue Order to a parent without parental responsibility. If there was a family tie and the name change severed it, then the courts will consider changing it back. It’s a pretty unusual situation, though, so don’t let it put you off getting a Child Deed Poll.
Still got questions?
You’ll need a notification letter to send off with a copy of the Child Deed Poll when you’re letting places know that you’ve changed your kid’s name.
Everyone with parental responsibility needs to sign it – if they can’t, or refuse, there’s a chance you might have to take it to the courts.