What is in a name? Our names are integral to who we are and often how we are viewed by those around us. Believe me, as a “Carmelita”, I know all about the implications of an unusual name (and don’t even get me started on the problems I have with “Ardren”)! I often wondered why my older sisters managed to get away with Sharon, Catherine and Lynne!
We are given a name when we are born, but some of us choose to change it either formally by deed or marriage, or informally by common usage. At some point or another we will have all thought about changing our name. If you are married, there will have been a discussion on the topic of names before the vows were uttered on how you will be known after the nuptials have taken place. Do you keep your maiden name, take your husband’s name or a combination of the two?
Contrary to popular belief, the wife’s surname does not automatically change on marriage and there are many reasons, both professional and personal, for keeping your maiden name. It remains a matter of personal choice. A wife changing her name on marriage will simply send certified copies of the marriage certificate to the institutions that need it. It is a fairly simple process. What about a husband taking the wife’s name? Or a double-barrel combo? For that you will need a change of name deed or deed poll. It is not automatic and requires a bit more legwork.
So what name will you give your children? It is commonly thought that children of married couples would take their father’s surname, but this is not necessarily the case. It is again a matter for you both as to whether the children will be known by the married name, maiden name or indeed something entirely different. Prepare yourself however for many years of being called “Mr/Mrs (child’s surname)”!
But what about if you are not married, what surname will the child adopt? The rules in relation to registration of a birth for unmarried couples are more complex. The details of both parents can be included on the birth certificate if one of the following happens:
• they sign the birth register together
• one parent completes a statutory declaration of parentage form and the other takes the signed form to register the birth
• one parent goes to register the birth with a document from the court (e.g. a court order) giving the father parental responsibility
• The mother can choose to register the birth on her own if she isn’t married to the child’s father. The father’s details won’t be included on the birth certificate.
This became important in December 2003 when unmarried fathers who were registered on the birth certificate were automatically given parental responsibility for the child. This otherwise could only be obtained with the agreement of the mother, subsequent marriage or an order of the court. It might be possible to add the father’s details at a later date by completing an application for the re-registration of a child’s birth. The surname however can be whatever you choose it to be on registration!
Be aware though, if your child has a different surname from you, you need to be prepared to answer questions at passport control about who you are to the child and whether you have permission to take the child out of the country – even on holiday.
So what about on divorce? Once taken, can the name be “withdrawn”, “recovered” or “removed”? It is surprising how often I have been asked this question. Simply put, NO! Many divorcees decide to revert to their maiden name, in which case the production of a certified copy of your Decree Absolute would be sufficient. Sometimes it feels right to choose another name altogether and in this event a Change of Name Deed would be required. The greater proportion however will keep their married name so that they continue to share their surname with the children, maintain a hard earned professional reputation or simply to continue as they were.
If you would like to discuss any family law issues that might be affecting you please contact me, Carmelita, on 01423 566666 or firstname.lastname@example.org