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4.8.2 Change of Name of a Looked After Child

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all changes of a Looked After child's forename or surname, formal or informal.

Allowing a child to adopt a new forename and/or surname amounts to a change of name and is therefore covered by this procedure.

AMENDMENT

In May 2018 this chapter was substantially revised and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Necessary Consents
  2. With the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility
  3. Without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility


1. Necessary Consents

Children aged 16 years or over (with mental capacity) are generally free to apply in their own right to change their name via deed poll.

However, where a child is subject to a Care Order, Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, the relevant age is 18. Changing the name of any child under 18 who is subject to any of these orders requires the written consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility. This applies whether the person wishing to change the name is the parent or the child. Where consent is not forthcoming, or all those with Parental Responsibility cannot be found, a court order is required before the child’s name can be changed (see Section 3, Without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility).

A child who is accommodated (s20 Children Act 1989) can apply to change their name at 16 if there are no private law orders (Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order) in force.

Any child who wishes to change their name should be encouraged to discuss the matter carefully with their Social Worker, parents and/or carers, their Independent Reviewing Officer and any involved advocacy service.


2. With the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility

Having talked at length with the young person, if they wish to proceed, the social worker should contact the child’s parents/carers to seek their written consent to the child's name being changed. Even where the father does not have Parental Responsibility and his consent is not strictly required, it may still be appropriate that he should be consulted and his views obtained. With line management agreement, LGSS Law should be asked to clarify this, particularly if there are any unusual circumstances or it is considered undesirable to seek parental consent on this issue.

If those with Parental Responsibility consent, the child's social worker should discuss the matter with the District Safeguarding Manager/Service Manager to also seek their agreement. The social worker should prepare a written report setting out the reason for the request to change the name and attach a copy of the parents' written consents. This report should be retained on the child's case record.

When all the necessary consents have been obtained, the social worker (or the child/young person depending on their age and level of understanding) should download and complete the forms required for changing a child’s name (Minor Deed Poll Pack, HM Courts & Tribunals Service). There is a small fee to pay.

The completed forms and accompanying documents (e.g. written consent from parents/carers) should be sent to:

Queen’s Bench Division
Action Department
The Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London
WC2A 2LL


3. Without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility

Before seeking a court order it is important to first try to obtain the agreement of those with Parental Responsibility. Applying for a court order should be a last resort, and the court will expect parties to have tried to reach an agreement first.

If the child is the subject of a Care Order and consent from all those with Parental Responsibility is not forthcoming, an application to change the child’s name would have to be made to the court under section 33(7) Children Act 1989.

If the child is the subject of a Child Arrangements Order/Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order, then any application would be made under s13(1) or s14C(3) Children Act 1989.

In deciding whether to agree to a change of name, the court’s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the child.

Change of surname

Courts tend to resist consenting to a change of surname, because:

  • The initial registration of the child’s name is considered to be a profound matter, and - other things being equal - it is in the long-term interests of a child for them to be known by their birth name;
  • The child’s surname is seen as an important link to their birth father or mother and as such is an important part of the child’s identity.

The application to the court must set out clear reasons why it is in the best interests of a child to justify a change of surname.

The court will take the child’s views into account and, if the child him/herself wants to change their surname, the court is more likely to agree.

Changes of first name

If a child is subject to a Care Order/Interim Care Order and wants to be known by another first name, then no court order is needed as the local authority can make the decision to change a child’s first name by exercising their power to determine the extent to which the parents/guardians may meet their Parental Responsibility under s33(3)(b) Children Act 1989, provided they are satisfied it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. The social worker should discuss this with their District Safeguarding Manager/Service Manager.

End