Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you have any legal concerns we suggest you consult a solicitor.

informally changing surname

(37 Posts)
doublecream Thu 18-Aug-11 22:25:48

My son has my surname and his father's surname as his surname, ie double barrelled, but not hyphenated. His father and I have never really been together, but we were together for the first three months after our son was born so registered his name together (it's a decision I was never very happy with). Now, 5 years on, my son is starting school and I want to drop his father's name, so he just uses my surname. This would not change his formal and legal documents, just the way he is known on a day to day basis. Can I do this? The school has him registered under just my surname, but I guess when his father finds out he could cause trouble (he will) and insist they use the full surname. Can anyone offer any advice about whether I can push ahead with this and ask for the school's support, or will the father have stronger grounds? It's already an emotional subject so would be really grateful for factual and practical advice! Thank you so much. x

prh47bridge Thu 18-Aug-11 23:09:26

As the father is named on the birth certificate he has parental responsibility. That means you cannot change your son's name without his consent, I'm afraid. It doesn't matter that you only want to change the way he is known on a day to day basis. That still needs the father's consent.

balia Fri 19-Aug-11 16:44:37

Asking the school for 'support' would be completely innappropriate - they have clear guidlines from the DFE about name changes.

HerHissyness Mon 22-Aug-11 00:54:24

My DS has his father's surname on his birth certificate (BIG MISTAKE!), this is the name he has for Doctors, school etc.

He is however known as my surname, but all official communications come in the father's suname, but DS day to day surname is my surname.

WRT your son. You will have to show his birth certificate as proof of identity, that name will be the name your child is registered under, but his Class Registration/(Roll call) name can be whatever you choose it to be.

If your school have seen the birth certificate and registered your DS under half of the double barrelled name, then tbh, leave it as it is! You are not changing the name, merely using half of it. It might not be 100% legal wrt the ex, but what's he going to do? go to court to FORCE a school to use 2 names? potentially, but I doubt he would.

HerHissyness Mon 22-Aug-11 00:55:55

IF your X did cause trouble, you might have to amend the school's official records to reflect both names, but day to day your DS could still be called whatever you say he will be called.

fargate Mon 22-Aug-11 02:17:53

I never experienced any problems doing this, despite a very litiginous ex.

prh47bridge Mon 22-Aug-11 10:01:45

The Department for Education's guidance for schools on this is, "Where the parents have divorced, schools should ensure that the surname by which a child is known should not be changed without written evidence (independent of the parent seeking to make the change), that consent has been given by the 'other parent' or by anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child."

If the OP gets the school to informally change her son's name in breach of DfE guidance the father could go to court to get a Prohibited Steps Order to force use of the child's full surname. HerHissyness may think it is unlikely but it happens all the time. From the father's point of view it would be relatively quick and cheap with an almost 100% chance of success.

fargate Mon 22-Aug-11 13:39:19

prh74bridge it's obviously really helpful to hear about the specific points of law - particularly in 'Legal Matters'

I do understand all the very good reasons why this is the case however I'd just like to say to the OP that it isn't inevitable that she would be forced to use the name on her DC's birth certificate.

I appreciate that it frequently holds enormous emotional significance for a father to know that their child carries their name

Children with verrrrry long surnames do struggle to write their names when they start school and often prefer to share their mothers surname at school especially if they have no meaningful relationship with an absent father/father's extended family. Or, can even actively reject the paternal part of their surname if their father has been abusive or neglectful.

Riakin Mon 22-Aug-11 13:58:26


Unfortunately as has already been pointed out using your name by choice or otherwise there is a breach and your ex is entitled to block this.

To fargate I would say them preferring to use the mothers name is complete poppycock. A child just starting schools would not instantly just want to use the mothers surname at all. Children know their name and should be encouraged by you and the teachers to write it.

Why do mothers constantly do this try and get child to use their names.... Spite?

fargate Mon 22-Aug-11 14:21:02

Hi Riakin. What's your evidence for this being ''poppycock'', please? What's your perspective? I'm really curious to know. You sound very cross to me, why is that?

I think you misunderstand me, I didn't say that children instantly want to do anything in this respect. Do you think that children in the situation I described won't have any feelings or maybe you believe they will just be following mum's orders.

Unfortunately, ''spite'' as you call it is all too common when parents seek ownership of their children. Mothers and fathers, both. Judgement of Solomon, and all that.

STIDW Mon 22-Aug-11 14:30:07

fargate, even if children have no meaningful relationship with a parent or their extended family a surname links the child to their heritage and identity which is important. Children who are insecure about their identity tend to grow up with low self esteem leading to emotional and behavioural problems in later life such as dysfunctional relationships.

Having Parental Responsibility means one parent shouldn't change the name of a child without the agreement of all those with PR for that child. When parents cannot agree and the matter is referred to court it is rarely found changing a name is in a child's best interests.

HerHissyness Mon 22-Aug-11 14:35:26

Name is not all there is to an identity. You can tell, discuss and show your DC where they come from. A name is totally immaterial, it's how you communicate with your child.

balia Mon 22-Aug-11 14:52:59

If the name is immaterial, why would you bother to change a child's day-to-day surname? It is certainly confusing in later years - exam certificates etc have to be in the legal name, you have to work out how 'fotrmal' a form is before you can work out which surname to put on - all that fuss and bother, what for? So 'my' child has 'my' name? I have never known a primary school child who expressed a preference for their mother's surname, and even if they did they are far too young to be capable of making that decision.

prh47bridge Mon 22-Aug-11 14:55:47

As STIDW indicates, the courts regard the child's surname as an important link to their heritage and identity. They will therefore generally rule against a mother who wants to change her child's name by removing the father's surname. Regardless of whether or not you think the courts are right, that is how the courts currently view name changes.

And whether or not the child "prefers" its mothers name or even "actively rejects" the paternal part of the surname is irrelevant. As far as the courts are concerned the child is too young to decide such matters.

Riakin Mon 22-Aug-11 15:10:16


My point being that in all the reading on here, netmums etc vs male dominated forums and indeed from my own advice to couples it is always a woman who wants to change names to their name or to double barrel the name after separation.

In all the people I have advised I have never once come across a man wanting or even doing this. Even in an informal sense (where double barrelled surnames are).

Too many mothers especially spiteful ones wish this. I've had it all, one mother when she found out her exh had a new partner she insisted that their child be known as mothers maiden name because of betrayal and if he refused his daughter would one day make that decision herself.

Naturally this was raised at court at my advice and the mother denied it... Thankfully the courts new otherwise based on other testimony.

Angry? Me? Don't be silly. Just still shocked how many mums do this and seem to think it ok for even the most flawed reasons...

overmydeadbody Mon 22-Aug-11 15:21:48

Raikin surely the only reason mothers do it more is that traditionally children are given their father's surname? Therefore not many fathers find themselves in the situation where they want to change their child's surname to their own? I'm just saying that is more likely the reasn more women seem to do it, rather than because they are more spiteful by nature.

To the OP, just use his surname, his double barrelled surname, as you should, in all things official, and your DS can drop part of the surname in day to day informal settings if he wishes, by telling the teacher himself.

I have a double barrelled surname, not new but has been like that since the 1600s, and yet at school I only used the second half as it was just easier, but all documents were in my proper surname and (obviously) I and everyone else knew my full surname.

MY dad also prefers to just use the second part of the double barrel in work.

fargate Mon 22-Aug-11 15:32:51

Thanks, STIDW.

I completely agree that identity, heritage and self-esteem are closely inter-related and important to a childs healthy development - doubtless we have read the same research, applied it in practice, etc.

I also, acknowledge the helpful legal advice given above regarding the relevant parts of The Children Act ie PR and Prohibited Steps Orders which will be useful to any parent reading this OP.

There is a third factor which doublecream mentions in her OP which she calls the 'emotional aspect' and the implied intimidation and inter-parental conflict. This is the focus of my posts as IME it's the trickiest part to resolve - altho' probably better explored elsewhere.

And actually, I don't think that it's a good idea for the OP to register her child at school with anything other than his/her legal name which is recorded on the birth certificate. Or at the GP/ dentist as other people have said. It's a childs legal identity and provides a legitimate way for an estranged parent to locate their child.

fargate Mon 22-Aug-11 15:34:33

Lots of x-posts. Don't have time to read or reply atm. Have to do some work now.

doublecream Mon 22-Aug-11 21:40:37

Thank you all for your advice, it's helpful information. I am not doing it out of spite, I don't get on that badly with my son's father. It's more about me and my son being called the same name as we live together and 99% of the time I will be the one interacting with him relating to matters at school, with his friends, etc. A friend of mine grew up with a different name to her mum and she said it always made her feel different, and she didn't like it. I want my son to be in this family, with this name - not have a bit of name hanging on that's extra to his home life. I'm probably not explaining it very well, but I can assure you it's him I'm thinking of, and it's not a way of getting at his father.

STIDW Mon 22-Aug-11 23:45:27

Whatever the reason it's unlawful to change a child's name without the consent of all those with PR for the child.

fargate Tue 23-Aug-11 02:53:59

Hmm. Yes. You said that before.

EttiKetti Tue 23-Aug-11 05:58:07

We did this. When I married DH, DD1 wanted our name, not her surname and we just started calling her it. No problems at all until she needed a bank account aged 16. Now we've done an official name change document and although her biological father is on the BC, I didn't need or try to gain his consent as he's not had contact for years and it wasn't requested of me hmm. All legal though as she now has a passport and driving licence on the basis of said document.

TheHumanCatapult Tue 23-Aug-11 06:23:29


Honestley your son will be ok with difernt name .I have 2 older boys who on birthcertficates have their dad name but becuase he doe not have Pr( they are older) .

School and Drs etc was in my name even though legally was his name .But have grown up with mine oone aged 14 has now took descion to change by deed poll and we did not need his dads consent.

I ahve 2 dc from my xh who have his name and use it at school etc .

Me I am switching back to my maiden name and will leave theirs to decide when older .But cna honestly say they have never asked why all differnt surnames

TheHumanCatapult Tue 23-Aug-11 06:25:04

oh the identy bit well ds1 and ds2 surname on birth certficates is linked to their heritage (ds1 and ds2 half italian ) but as my son put it its just a name it means nothing

prh47bridge Tue 23-Aug-11 10:04:06

EttiKetti - The law is a bit different for you than for the OP. Your daughter's father did not gain PR through being named on the birth certificate as the birth was registered before 1st December 2003. You therefore did not need the father's consent.

This is presumably also the situation for TheHumanCatapult.

The OP's son is younger. The father has therefore gained PR by being named on the birth certificate, hence the advice that the OP needs his consent to change her son's name, even informally.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: