Q: I divorced my son’s father soon after his birth two years ago. I am now in a new relationship and am engaged to get married. When I marry I want my son to have the same surname as me but his father will not agree to this. Can I just go ahead regardless?
A: Parents often want to change their child’s surname when they remarry but there are laws regulating this. The first step is to ascertain who has Parental Responsibility. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children but fathers only have parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate and are present at the registration or if the parents were married when the child was born. Other individuals such as legal guardians may also have parental responsibility for a child.
Children under 16 years cannot change their surname without the express consent of all those with parental responsibility. As your son is 2 years old and you were married to his father at the time of his birth, you will need his father’s consent to change his surname. His father is entitled to refuse his consent, though you can apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order to grant permission.
Before applying to the Court you must, however, first attempt mediation. Mediation is where an independent, trained mediator helps parents to work out agreements for such as child arrangements issues. If mediation is unsuccessful you can apply to court where a number of factors will be taken into account when determining whether your child’s surname should be changed, including the biological link, reason behind your desire to change your son’s surname and the degree of commitment his father has shown him. The court will rule in your son’s best interests. Before taking any step you should seek legal advice.
(Article published 14/08/2017)