I’m a single parent – can I change my child’s surname?

Find out whether it's possible to change your child's name as a single parent.

Whatever your individual circumstances, you’re here because you’re a single parent looking to change your child’s surname. Well, either that or you’re a bit nosey.

Yes – it is possible to change your child’s name as a single parent, but only in certain circumstances. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to, and if the other parent is still involved in the child’s life and won’t agree to the change, then it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to.

Before I get into whether you can change your child’s name or not, you’ll need to understand how the process of changing a child’s name works. You’ll need to know:

  • What Deed Polls are and how they work
  • What a Letter of Consent is
  • What parental responsibility is and who has it

Once you understand those, you’ll be able to work out whether you could change your child’s name as a single parent or not.

I’ll just add a little disclaimer before I start. You can only change your child’s names for the right reasons. You can’t change your child’s name just to spite an ex, for example. I’m sure you do have the best intentions, but I thought it was worth making that clear.

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What’s a Deed Poll?

A Deed Poll is the document you use to officially change your name. You get one, sign it in the presence of witnesses, and you’re done. Once it’s signed it’s a legal document that you can use to change your name. You then send the Deed Poll off to any organisations you deal with (Passport Office, utility companies, banks, schools, etc.) and get them to update your details with the name change.

Changing a child’s name works in basically the same way, only you use a Child’s Deed Poll instead and you need to include something called a Letter of Consent when you send it to the organisations.

What’s a Letter of Consent?

When you send the Child Deed Poll to the relevant organisations, you also need to send a Letter of Consent (sometimes known as a Notification Letter).

A Letter of Consent is a letter saying that you, as the person responsible for the child, are aware of the Deed Poll and you give your permission for the child’s name to be changed. But here’s where things can get tricky: everyone with parental responsibility needs to sign it.

What’s parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility refers to everyone who has responsibility for the child. The biological mother always has parental responsibility, as does the biological father if he is married to the mother at the time of birth or named on the birth certificate. Depending on the circumstances of your family others may also be responsible. You can find a full list of everyone who may have parental responsibility on the government’s site.

Whenever an important decision is made about a child’s life, everyone with parental responsibility needs to agree with the decision. Obviously, though, this can make it pretty tricky for single parents to change their child’s name.

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Can any single parent change their child’s name?

A single parent can only change their child’s name in specific circumstances.

If the other parent has passed away then you can change your child’s name using a Child Deed Poll. As you would (likely) be the only person with parental responsibility, your signature on the Letter of Consent would be sufficient. You may need to provide evidence of your partner’s death, though.

If the other parent (or anyone with parental responsibility) still has any form of contact with the child, you can’t change your child’s name without their permission. If they don’t agree to a name change by Deed Poll, unfortunately you won’t be able to change it. Your only other choice is to apply to the courts for something called a Specific Issue Order.

Specific Issue Orders are pretty costly (£232) and you’ll need to attempt mediation before you can apply for one (apart from in specific cases, like domestic abuse). There’s no guarantee that your application will be successful. The courts hate changing a child’s name. If the other parent is still involved in the child’s life in any way, then your chances of successfully applying for a Specific Issue Order are pretty miniscule.

If the other parent doesn’t have any contact with your child, you might be able to change their name using a Child Deed Poll. You’d just need to explain the situation in your Letter of Consent, detailing the other parent’s absence from your child’s life. Use specific examples – no Christmas cards, no birthday cards, no child maintenance. Mention how long they’ve been absent. For most organisations, that’ll be sufficient for them to change the name.

Most, but not all. The Passport Office, for example, won’t accept a Letter of Consent if it hasn’t been signed by everyone with parental responsibility, absent or not. The only way a single parent can change their child’s name at the Passport Office is by getting a Specific Issue Order. Fortunately, if the other parent is absent from your child’s life, there’s a much higher chance that you’ll be granted one.

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I hope this article has helped you. It’s hard to give a definitive answer to the question because every case is different. As a general rule, if your child’s other parent is still a part of their life, you won’t be able to change your child’s name without their consent. If they aren’t, you probably will.

If you need a Child Deed Poll, we can help with that – just click the button below!

Declan Ramsden
Declan Ramsden

Declan is a Content Creator at Vital Consular. He studied English Literature for 4 years before joining the company. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to retro music and reading classic novels – particularly Charles Dickens!

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