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Family law

How do I change my child's surname?



There can be a variety of reasons for wishing to change a child’s surname on his or her birth certificate. The process for doing so is different in Scotland than in other parts of the UK.

Changing a child’s name is not something which should be done on a whim. Changes can be minor such as additions or deletions of punctuation or a change in spelling of a name, to more significant changes such as a complete change of either/or forenames and surname. A name is important. It allows others to identify a particular individual and perhaps more importantly, contributes to giving a person a sense of identity. The importance of a name is something which is recognised by the General Register Office for Scotland (GRO).

The GRO has set down specific limits on the frequency of name changes. Included in the limits are:

  1. Only one change of forename and one change of surname may be recorded for a child under 16yrs of age;
  2. Where a child’s forename was changed within 12 months of its birth, no further changes to the child’s forename can be made until the child reached 16yrs of age;
  3. Only a child who has had its birth registered in Scotland, may apply to the GRO to change their name; and

An application to change a child’s name is ultimately made to the General Register Office for Scotland (GRS). However there are two situations to consider as part of the whole process:

  1. A party holding Parental Rights and Responsibilities (PRRs) in relation to the child who provides their consent; or
  2. A Party holding PRRs who withholds their consent.

Process where consent is provided:

An application can be made to the GRS using Form 23. Form 23 is the substantive application to change the forename(s) or/and surname of a child under 16yrs. There is a separate form (Form 21) for changing the forename only of a child who is under 12 months old.

A registration fee requires to be paid when the application is submitted. The current prices are £40 for the recording of the name change, and £15 for the provision of a new extract certificate. If there is more than one child, the recording fee is £40 plus £10 for each additional child. The extracts are £15 each.

A party other than a natural parent may hold PRRs in relation to a child (such as a grandparent, or a step-parent). Consent is required from all parties who hold PRRs in relation to a child in order that the application to change that child’s name may be processed. It is irrelevant whether the PRRs were obtained by virtue of being on the child’s birth certificate, being granted by agreement of the natural mother, or awarded by the Court. Form 23 provides for the consent of all holding PRRs.

Process where consent is withheld:

Unfortunately, there may be occasions where parties are unable to agree to the name change. A common example we see is where the child’s natural parents separate and the child’s mother wishes to change the child’s surname to her maiden name. In this instance, where there is no consent, a court action will require to be raised.

The party wishing to apply for a change in name will first need to obtain a Court Decree for specific issue order under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. In terms of this legislation, when a Court makes an Order in relation to a child, the Court must be satisfied that it is better to make an order than no order be made at all, and that the making of an order is in the best interests of the child. These points are considered the ‘minimal intervention principle’ and the ‘welfare principle’. Once decree has been granted, the application is submitted using Form 23, and enclosing with it Form PRF and a copy of the extract decree, together with payment.

What happens after a fresh birth certificate has been issued?

As we have alluded to, a change in name is significant. It would be wise to update relevant agencies regarding the change (such as banks, DVLA, passport office etc.) and where revised or refreshed copies of certain documentation are required, a cost may be payable for these.

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Our family law team is made up of experienced family law solicitors around the country and are Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as specialists in their field.


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Get in touch

Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.