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Changing the Name of an Adopted Child

July 15, 2020

***Please note: you will need a deed poll to change your adopted child's name. To order a deed poll click here.

Choosing your adopted child’s name is one of the first major decisions you will have to make as a new parent. But what if you’re adopting a child who already has a name? Should you give your child a new forename, a new surname, or both? And how do you proceed with the official name change

Here is everything you need to know about changing an adopted child’s name and what you should take into consideration before taking the big step.

What is Adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a child who cannot be raised by the birth parents with a new family. It is a legal procedure through which the parental responsibility for the child is transferred to the adoptive parents. After adoption, the child is no longer legally tied with the birth mother and father and becomes a full member of the new family.

To adopt, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man. British citizens living abroad are not allowed to adopt from the UK. You can adopt regardless of your marital status, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, financial status, and disability. Anyone above the age of 21 can adopt a child and there is no upper age limit.

Around 5,000 children are waiting to be adopted in the UK every year. These children come from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, and many of them are siblings. Approximately two-thirds of children awaiting adoption are two years or older.

Should I Change My Adopted Child’s Name?

Changing an adopted child’s name is not an easy decision. Some adoptive parents believe that they should rename children after the adoption. For them, the new name symbolizes a fresh start. At the same time, other parents may feel strongly about keeping the child’s original name as a connection to its birth family. 

So how do you know whether you should change your child’s name or keep the one they were given at birth? When it comes to changing an adopted child’s name, there is no right or wrong. Every adoption is unique and naming a child is very much an individual decision. 

Changing the Forename of Your Adopted Infant

It is a common practice to change an infant’s name when adopting shortly after birth. While the birth parents may have already given a name to the child, many expect this name to change after the adoption.

You may, of course, decide to keep the name that your child was given at birth. Alternatively, you can keep the forename and change the middle name, or simply change the full name. Ultimately, as the new legal parent of the child, making a decision about your child’s name is yours to make.

In an open adoption, in which the adoptive family maintains contact with the birth family, the birth mother may ask to participate in the naming of the child she is placing for adoption. In this case, adoptive and birth parents may agree to pick a name together before the birth. Otherwise, if you plan to choose a child’s name yourself and are in contact with the child’s birth parents, it is good practice to inform them about it first. 

Changing the forename of an adopted infant is very simple. Early name changes don’t require any notifications or special paperwork. As soon as the adoption is finalized, the new name will go right on the adoption paperwork and will appear on the newly issued birth certificate.

Changing the Forename of Your Older Adopted Child

While naming an infant is relatively simple, it often gets more complicated when adopting toddlers and older children. Although whether or not to change the name is still a parental decision, many adoptees will have their own opinions and preferences.

Some children are extremely attached to their names. The name is a part of their background and they don’t feel comfortable changing it. Others love the idea of starting over with a fresh name, especially if it is one they can choose together with their new family. Whatever the case, you should always consider how the child feels about the name change before making any decisions. 

Some families keep the forename of older children and, as a compromise, change their middle name. For a younger child, parents may legally change the forename, while keeping the birth name as the middle name.

There is one instance, however, where it may be necessary to change an older child’s name against their will. If your adopted child comes from a sensitive background, it may be wise to give them a new name for safety reasons. In this case, including children in the process will probably make them less reluctant about the change.

How to Officially Change Your Adopted Child's Forename 

Changing your adopted child's forename is similar to any other name change. In the UK, you are allowed to legally change your name for any reason, and there is no need to give any particular explanation for changing your adopted child’s name. What is more, there are no restrictions as to the number of times you can change a name.

Parents can change the name of their adopted children until they are 16 years old. After that, in the majority of cases, children are allowed to change their own name. Children who are 16 or above can legally change their name without obtaining anyone else’s consent unless there is a court order in place that overrides that decision.

The new name must be pronounceable, not cause public offense nor infringe on intellectual property rights, and it needs to comply with other common-sense name restrictions specified by the Home Office. 

Deed poll

To change your adopted child’s forename, you will need a Deed Poll. A Deed Poll is a document that legalizes name changes in the UK and makes the new name official. It can be used as evidence of your child’s new name for the purposes of amending the passport and other documents.

Although it is an official document, a Deed Poll can’t be obtained from any government office. The easiest way to obtain a Deed Poll is to complete the application form online. The process is fast and secure. Applications are usually processed within two business days. 

For younger children, you need to apply for a Child Deed Poll, while children older than 16 can use an Adult Deed Poll

Once you have changed your child’s name, you must notify all relevant parties for the name change to be effective. Along with your child’s Deed Poll, you will receive a list of relevant organizations that you should notify about the name change such as the child’s school, nursery, doctor, and dentist.

If the name change is part of the formal adoption process, there is no need for a Deed Poll. The adoption certificate attests the adoptee’s new name.

Parental consent

In addition to the Deed Poll, you must obtain the written consent of all parents named on the adoption certificate in order to legally change your adopted child’s name. It is good practice to get the consent​‌‌‌​‌‌ ​‌‌‌​‌​of​‌‌‌​‌​ ​‌‌‌​‌‌all​‌​‌‌‌‌ ​‌‌​​​​the​‌‌​​‌‌ ​‌‌​​‌‌child’s​‌‌​​​​ ​‌‌‌​​‌parents​‌‌‌​​‌, also​‌‌‌‌​​ those​​‌​​‌ who don’t have parental responsibility. 

But what happens if you don’t have everybody’s consent? Certain official bodies, like HM Passport Office, require full parental consent without any exceptions. At the same time, consent is often not necessary for some other official bodies like schools and doctors. It is usually acceptable to simply provide them with a different name from the one listed on the birth register.

Abandoning the old name

One of the requirements when changing a name in the UK is that after registering a new name, the old one must be completely abandoned. This means that changing your adopted child’s name requires a commitment to the exclusive use of the new name. 

The Deed Poll contains the declarations that the previous name is being abandoned, the new name will be used at all times, and that the child will only be addressed by the new name.

Changing the Surname of Your Adopted Child

When an adopted child becomes a full member of the new family and no longer has any legal ties with the birth mother and father, in most cases the child will take the surname of the adoptive parents. In spite of the fact that many adopted children are reluctant to change their forenames, they are usually thrilled to take their adoptive parents’ surname. It gives them a sense of belonging to the new family.

In some cases, particularly in the older child and teen adoptions, adoptees may wish to keep their old surnames. They may feel a strong connection to it and see it as part of their identity and their past. You should always consider the child’s feelings and the ways a name change will impact them. It is perfectly acceptable for family members not to have matching surnames if that is what everyone is comfortable with. 

There are several other options you can consider when choosing a surname for your adopted child. If both you and the child feel strongly about your respective family names, it may be a good idea to compromise. You can, for example, have the entire family choose a new surname which can be a hyphenated combination of the parents’ and the child’s surnames or another common surname that you choose. 

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that there may be additional costs involved in changing the name of all family members who are not being adopted.

How to Officially Change Your Adopted Child's Surname 

To change the surname of your adopted child to your family surname, all you need is the adoption certificate. It is considered to be sufficient documentation for surname changes. Unlike changing your adopted child’s forename, you will not need a Deed Poll.

To change your child’s surname, you will have to get the consent of every person who has parental responsibility and rights. If you like to change the surname of your adopted child but you don’t have everyone’s consent, you must obtain a court order which is accepted in place of the parental consent. Keep in mind, however, that the most important element in the decision of the court will always be the welfare of the child. The child’s views and wishes will also be taken into account.

If​‌‌‌​‌‌ ​‌‌‌​‌​you are intending to take your child abroad​​‌​​‌ before you receive the adoption certificate, ​​‌​​​HM Passport Office may make an exception and issue your child a passport using your family surname, provided that you have either the written consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child or the consent of the court.

If the child is a resident of Scotland

Name changing rules are somewhat different when your adopted child is the resident of Scotland. If you are requesting a forename or surname change for an adopted child who is resident of Scotland, the consent of one person​‌‌‌​‌‌ ​‌‌‌​‌​with​‌‌‌​‌​ ​‌‌‌​‌‌parental​‌​‌‌‌‌ ​‌‌​​​​responsibility​‌‌​​‌‌‌‌​​​​ ​‌‌‌​is sufficient. This parent is required to make a written statement confirming that he or she has consulted everyone else with parental responsibilities. It is also necessary to take into account the views of the child itself and this information should be included in the written statement. 

Costs Associated With A Name Change

When considering to change the name of your adopted child, you need to keep in mind that there will most probably be some costs involved in the process, such as the cost of the new birth certificate, paperwork filing and court order fees, and the cost of advertising the change in local papers, for example. 

The Deed Poll fee is £18.50 including VAT & postage for both Child Deed Poll and adult Deed Poll. Obtaining official documentation will be pricier if you decide to get the services of a solicitor, which is not needed to complete the name change. 

In order to change the name of your adopted child on the passport, you have to apply for a new passport. The application fee is £49 for children up to the age of 15 and £75.50 for children older than 16. However, it is legal to use a passport with the old name until it expires. 

Notifying any official bodies about the name change usually doesn’t incur any additional costs.

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