It is not uncommon for a parent and their child to have different surnames. This may be because the mother was not married to the father at the time of birth or due to remarriage or divorce.
We have seen that this issue has caused problems especially when travelling. Border control often pull families aside for questioning if the child(ren) do not share the same surname as the parent travelling with them and this can be quite a harrowing experience. A way to avoid interrogation is to travel with masses of documents proving that you are the parent of your child. However, some would prefer to change their child’s surname.
A child’s last name can be lawfully changed provided that all of those with parental responsibility give their consent. The name change can be simply effected by way of a Change of Name Deed or by Deed Poll.
However, if they do not consent to the name change, you can apply to the Court to ask for permission. Whether a Court permits the name change depends on the reasoning behind the application.
It must be noted that if the reason for the name change is simply because the child’s name is not the same as the applicant’s, this does not carry much weight. There must be other reasons behind the application.
The Court will consider whether the change of name is in the child’s best interests as the Court views the child’s last name as part of their identity. It is likely to be in the child’s best interests to maintain a ‘link’ to the biological father and his family, especially if the child is of dual heritage. CAFCASS will be ordered to prepare a report on the welfare implications of the name change.
If for example the application is to change the child’s surname to their step-parent’s, the Court will take into account the child’s wishes and feelings, however this is not always a determining factor (Re B (Change of surname)  1 FLR 791, CA). It could be that the child has been using the proposed name for a long period of time and these instances, the Court is likely to grant the name change.
A common solution is to propose that the child’s surname to be changed to both the parent’s last names. This will mean that the child will maintain their identity and keep both parties satisfied.
If you would like to discuss this further, please contact Lynn Gooch on 020 8502 3991 for more information.