One of the most common practical changes following a separation or divorce/dissolution of civil partnership is to change your surname or your child’s surname. It may be that you want to revert back to using your original name and want your child to have the same surname as you, or for your child to have the same surname as your new partner/spouse and any other children you may have.
Changing your own surname
Changing your own surname should be straightforward. If you no longer wish to be known by the name you assumed on your marriage/civil partnership, you can simply let people and organisations know that you want to be known by a different name. Nothing “formally” needs to be done to change it. If you previously changed your surname through National Records of Scotland, however, and your birth certificate was amended, you will need to go back through that procedure to change it again.
You may find that more formal organisations may want to see a copy of your marriage certificate and/or decree of divorce/dissolution of civil partnership to explain the change.
Changing your child’s surname
If your child is under the age of 16, you will need consent from anyone who shares parental rights and responsibilities (“PRRs”) for them. When trying to reach agreement about any change, the focus should be on what is in the best interests of your child. It may also be appropriate to ask your child for their views on the change. If you are the only person with PRRs then you do not need consent from anyone else. If your child is aged 16 or over they will need to change their name themselves.
I’ve got the required consent – how do I change it?
If your child was born in Scotland, or there is an entry in Scotland in the Adopted Children Register or Parental Order Register, you can change their surname by completing an application form from the National Records of Scotland. A fee is payable when submitting the application form. This is a formal change of name and any birth certificate issued after the change will show your child’s new name, with their original name shown separately.
You can also record your own change of name or change of your child’s name informally by way of a Statutory Declaration. This must be signed in the Prescence of a Notary Public.
The other parent won’t agree – what can I do?
Your child’s other parent (if they have PRRs) must be consulted and so it is always best to start by trying to open a dialogue to see if agreement can be reached. You may wish to consider using mediation which can provide a helpful setting to have often challenging conversations. You could also consider whether a double-barrelled surname may be a compromise that your former partner would agree to, if you think it would be in your child’s best interests.
If you have exhausted all avenues and they still won’t provide consent, you will need the consent of the court. That will require raising a court action, where the other parent will be notified and given the opportunity to oppose the name change. The court’s main consideration will be what is in the best interests of your child. Are they old enough to have any understanding of the significance of their surname? What effect will a change, or not changing it, have on them? Will it be confusing for them? Have they expressed a view about whether they want their name to change? The court will expect you to have given the other parent an opportunity to consider and reflect on your proposal before raising the court action.
What happens if the other parent has changed my child’s surname without my consent and won’t agree to changing it back?
You will need to apply to the court for an order requiring the name to be changed back.
If you have any queries about changing a name, who may or may not have PRRs for your child, or about seeking consent from the other parent, please get in touch with a member of our family law team.