Q: I separated from my wife years ago and earlier this year we finally got divorced. After the divorce she decided to go back to her maiden name. In a way I could understand why she wanted to, but I did say I thought it would be confusing for the children if she had a different name to them. Now she is saying she is going to change the children’s names to her maiden name as well. Surely she can’t just go ahead and change their names without my agreement? They are my children!
A: All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent. This is known as ‘parental responsibility’. If you have parental responsibility for children who don’t live with you the parent they do live with still needs to involve you in decisions about them that affect their well-being.
So if you have Parental Responsibility, your ex-wife has no legal right to change your children’s names without your consent and you can apply to the Court for a specific issue Order and a Prohibited steps Order to ensure she is known by your name.
If you disagree with the name change the Court would be likely to agree that it is in the best interests of your children to keep the name that is on her birth certificate, i.e. your name. The Court would only consider upholding the name-change if they felt that it was in your children’s best interests to do so. Also, the Court would look at the mother’s reasons for changing the name in the first place.
Under the current circumstances, if you have tried to talk to your ex-partner and failed to get her to comply with your wishes you should seek advice from a solicitor specialising in family law.