Monday 7 August 2017

Avoiding pains when changing names

Monosyllabic. Double barrelled. Triple barrelled. Your name and its use forms one of the most important and repeatedly laboured designations for the entire span of your life. Many of us lucky enough to have names suited to our location and situation never even consider the possibility of changing names, never mind actually attempting to enter the arena of ‘deed polls’, mysterious documents that many banish to the world of actors and victims of stalking. But there are many normal instances where people may wish to change either their own, or their child’s name; the paperwork should not be considered insurmountable. Whether it be for the benefit of settling into a new territory, entering a new profession (sometimes requiring the divorce from a parent’s ill-conceived eccentricity), the breakdown of a family, perhaps even just the individual choice of a child/adult. A brief discussion of the law and administration of deed polls will follow below.

Article by Yeung-way Hedges
An important feature of statute law, perhaps described more aptly as a ‘non-existent’ feature of statute law would be the omission of legislation in existence which hinders your human right to change your forename or surname. Conventions (Coke on Littleton 1628, Bracton c.1235) only prescribe that individuals must have and be referred to by a forename and surname in terms of legal existence, and common law (Barlow v Bateman 1730) actually provides precedent to support an individual’s right to freely change their name without the bondage of acts of Parliament. These freedoms are complicated however by specific factors affecting each situation independently, especially when issues such as age, parentage, and best interests of the individual come into the fold.

Wishes to change names via the deed poll process most commonly arise when a child’s home/family situation becomes complex. Parental responsibility (being legally recognised as the child’s parent, at birth for the mother and being married to the mother/named on the birth certificate for the father) operates in full force until the child reaches the age of consent (16 in England and Wales). Until the 16th birthday, in order to change a child’s name via deed poll, all responsible parents must provide consent for the process to take place. Once the child reaches the age of 16, the courts will grant them full power to do with their name what they wish; consent of parents is officially dissolved.

For younger children embroiled in the battles of parental disputes, the process of name changing becomes far more convoluted. For a parent with sole parental responsibility, no consent from the other (biological) parent would be required. But this situation proves rare in reality. Where a mother may wish to change her child’s surname to her own due to the breakdown of a relationship, she may find the courts unsympathetic where the father remains in contact and provides maintenance payments, especially if the child is under the age of 5. The courts identify the best interests of the child, especially in protecting a paternal bond, sometimes even where the father may be absent. Upon the age of 11, the courts will begin to take the child’s wishes into account, and by 14 the child’s wish becomes paramount, therefore the ability and flexibility in changing names grows alongside the child. In contrast, changing a child’s forename proves far easier, as it does not upset the biological bond between child and parent.

In 2013 The Guardian reported that ‘nearly 50,000 people a year are wasting millions of pounds paying online companies that promise on Google adverts to “officially change your name”’. The use of certain spurious online companies has resulted in consumers paying for ostensibly ‘official’ deed poll documents when in reality they hold no legal power, therefore to be sure of authenticity it is vital to seek the professional advice of a solicitor.

If you are considering changing your own or your child’s name and require advice and/or authentic legally binding services, please feel free to contact us via email or connect with us on LinkedIn. Our fixed fee for a single
Deed Poll is £75 plus VAT, incl. 3x certified copies of the deed. Any additional copies are charged at £3 each.

Tel: 01992 422 128

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.