Changing your name after a divorce or separation

After a divorce or separation, many women choose to relinquish their married name. But how do you do this in a way that organisations like banks and government agencies will accept? Our Family Lawyers can help…

If you want to change your name, there is no legal procedure you have to follow. Under English law you can simply begin calling yourself something else and provided that you are not changing your name in order to defraud anyone there is no legal problem with doing this.

From a practical point of view however, there are some difficulties with doing this. For example, some organisations, like banks, building societies and Government departments, may not be satisfied with a simple assertion from you that your name has changed and they may require written evidence of the change.

Using a Deed Poll to provide acceptable evidence of a change of name

The most common way to evidence a change of name is with a Deed Poll or Change of Name Deed. Our Family Law Solicitors can prepare a Change of Name Deed on your behalf that will provide written evidence of your change of name that is acceptable to banks, building societies, government agencies and other official organisations.

What is a Deed Poll?

As the name suggests, a Deed Poll is a formal Deed. That is, a kind of legal contract that binds the person it concerns to a particular course of action – in this case a change of name. Essentially, when you execute a Deed Poll for change of name, you are committing yourself to the following:

  • Relinquishing your former name;
  • Only using your new name;
  • Requiring others (individuals and organisations) to call you by your new name.

Registration of Deed Polls

There is no central register of changes of name, and there is no legal requirement to register a Deed Poll. However, if you wish to create a public record of your new name, you can register your Deed Poll in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature, which is within the Royal Courts of Justice in London. When a Deed Poll is registered, the person’s details, including home address, are logged in the London Gazette, one of the Government’s official newspapers (the London Gazette is not on sale to members of the public, however).

Changing children’s names

It is possible to change the names of children, and again, there is no official legal procedure that must be followed to do this, however using a Deed Poll for this purpose provides a useful source of documentary evidence of the change. Usually, the only legal requirement for changing a child’s name is that all people with parental responsibility agree to the change.Parental responsibility is automatically given to the child’s mother, although it can be revoked or restricted by a Court Order; for all other people, including the child’s father, parental responsibility is conditional on a number of factors and you should take legal advice from a solicitor regarding this. In cases where not all those with parental responsibility agree, it is possible to apply to the Court for permission to change a child’s name. The change is likely to be allowed in cases where the Court believes it to be in the child’s best interests.The change of a child’s name, particularly after a divorce, can evoke strong emotions in both parents and cause bitter disagreements in some cases. There have even been cases where the non-resident parent has sucessfully applied to the Court to have the change of a child’s name reversed. We would therefore strongly recommend that in your child’s best interests, you take expert legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor before committing to any change of name for your child.

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