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Frequently Asked Questions - Changing Names

Should I change my name?
In the past, we would have said that if you wanted to do so, then fine. Now, we live in a world where people are becoming more and more strident about establishing your ID, and taking greater precautions if they have reason to doubt who you are. Changing your name necessarily increases the risk of difficultis proving your name.

This risk is only likely to grow if we end up with an Identity Card scheme.

Can I choose My Name?

The fundamental is that, as an adult, and in general, you are free to choose to use whatever name you want. The single effective restriction is that this may not be done to achieve a fraudulent purpose. After that, the field is more or less free (see below).

Q: What do I have to do?

A: In general, you can just change your name. Just decide on, and start using the new name. In strict law that is all that is necessary. No formality is necessary. That said people often choose to obtain a deed which will provide evidence of that change of name.

If you are changing your name now, we can prepare a deed for this purpose. If you are marking the change after it has been in effect for some time, the better way is to use a statutory declaration. Again, we can prepare one.

Q: I am a mum. The birth father is long gone. Can I change my child's name?

A: With his consent, yes. If he will not give his consent, or cannot be found, the proper answer is that usually an application should be made to court. Understand however that courts do tend to frown on such applications. The father is the father. In general, the child interests will be best served by preserving what little connection may remain with the father. Changing a child's surname risks joining in a pretence that the father is not the father. Courts are reluctant to agree to this, and generally, a good reason is needed.

Thesituations vary so much, that it is difficult to generalise. It is always worth asking.

Q: Can I choose a different first name.

A: I theory a Christian name, one given to you by God on being christened, can not be taken away. This goes back to the peculiar place of the Christian church in our constitution. The law acepts that in this one field it takes second place. Otherwise, you are free to change a first name just as much as any other.

In practice, also, nobody particularly objects to changing a Christian name.

Should I Change my Name?

Unfortunately as time goes by it makes less and less sense to change your name. In these days of terrorist suspicion, a change of name is an invitation to, if not outright suspicion, ten a grudging suspension of belief. As ID cards come in, changing a name will become more and more expensive and troublesome.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 473 18 October 2013