Legal Eagle: Surname is part of identity
My seven year old son was removed from my care at birth and placed in the care of my eldest daughter who is now his legal guardian. She rang me last week to tell me that she is changing my seven year old's surname to her marital name to '˜avoid confusion' and that I don't have a say on the matter. I am very upset about this. I am still his mother and I am sure that I still have parental responsibility for him. Is she right in saying that she can go ahead and change his surname without my consent?
It sounds like you are dealing with a very distressing situation.
A parent or guardian who has parental responsibility for a child can change the child’s surname via Deed Poll. In circumstances where more than one person has parental responsibility for the child, all parties with parental responsibility will have to give their consent to the name change.
Due to the fact that you have parental responsibility for your son, and that you have no reason to believe that your parental responsibility has been revoked, your son’s Guardian would require your permission to change his surname. You automatically have parental responsibility for your son due to the fact that you are his birth mother. If your son’s Guardian fails to obtain your consent to the name change then she would have no other option but to apply to the court for a court order.
The court will generally hold a view that parents and guardians should consider alternatives before applying for a court order, such as attempting to reach an agreement outside of court.
If your son’s Guardian fails to obtain your permission to change your son’s surname and decides to apply for a court order, the welfare of your child would be the court’s paramount consideration. The court would then consider whether a change of surname would be in your son’s best interests and whether his welfare would be affected by such name change.
Generally the court tends to resist to consent to surname change because they believe that the initial registration of a child’s name is thought to be a profound matter and it is in the long-term interests of the child to be known by their birth name. A child’s surname is also seen as an important link to the father, sometimes even more so in circumstances where the father is absent from the child’s life.
A surname is thought to be an extremely important part of a child’s identity and the court generally obtains the view that there is nothing wrong with bearing a different surname to other members of the family. It is likely that the basis for which your son’s Guardian wishes to change his surname in order to “avoid confusion” will not bare enough weight for a court to justify granting a name change on this basis.
l Ben Hoare Bell LLP Solicitors has many specialist Family Solicitors who can advise you on situations such as the above. If you would like to speak to a Solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information