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UK Laws For Baby Names

July 18, 2022

Registering a birth in the UK ensures a child will have access to healthcare and other benefits. 

In this article, learn how and where to register a new child and what to do if you decide to change your child’s name

Why Is Registration Important?

Having a new baby is an exciting event. But getting a newborn registered with the UK government might seem like a chore you don’t have time for. Fortunately, registering a new birth isn’t too complicated.

You may wonder why it’s necessary to register your baby’s name. It’s necessary to register your child for them to receive a birth certificate. 

Birth certificates are required for many things, including registering for school and healthcare services. If you plan to travel with your child, they must be registered to apply for a passport or get a driver’s license one day.

Registering your baby gives them a legal identity as a UK citizen.

What Is the Process of Birth Registration?

There are different rules for registering a birth in different parts of the United Kingdom. All babies in Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland must be registered less than 42 days after their birth. 

In many cases, the hospital will help you complete this task before the mother and baby leave. If it is impossible to complete registration at the hospital, it can be done at the local register office where the baby was born.

Information you need to have when registering includes:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Name of the baby, including surname
  • Sex of the baby
  • Names of the parents, including surnames and mother’s maiden name
  • Parents’ address
  • Dates and location of parents’ births
  • Date of parents’ marriage or civil partnership
  • Parents’ occupations

Take at least one form of identification for each parent to your appointment. You will be given a “short version” birth certificate for free at the time of registration. A longer version of the certificate is available for a fee from the registration office. Copies are also available for an additional fee.

Who Can Complete the Registration?

If the baby’s parents are married or in a civil union at the time of the birth, either one or both can take care of the registration. If the parents are not in a legally recognized union, it is the mother’s responsibility to register the birth. If unmarried parents want to be named on the birth certificate, both must attend the registration appointment.

If you are going to the registration office as a single mother, you may also need to bring proof of paternity before providing the father’s personal details. If you are an unmarried father and want to be a participating parent, you must have your name on the birth certificate to ensure your parental rights. 

Attending the registration appointment ensures you will be included on the official document. If the father cannot attend the appointment, re-registration can be scheduled at a later date.

Same-Sex Couples and Adoption

The UK automatically recognizes a woman carrying a baby as that child’s legal parent. In the case of female couples, the birth mother can register the baby and include her civil partner/spouse as the child’s legal parent. In the case of unmarried, non-civil female partners, the birth mother can register alone or jointly with her partner.

Male couples must obtain a parental order to register as the child’s parents.

A baby that is adopted will be registered through the usual process. The child’s birth mother and birth father (if available) will be named on the birth certificate.

Once the adoption is official and the General Registrar has received all necessary documentation, an updated registration that includes the adoptive parents will be created. The new birth certificate will be linked to the original certificate and held in a confidential file, which becomes accessible to the child at age 18.

What If I Haven’t Decided on My Baby’s Name?

Though births need to be registered within 42 days, it is not always possible to decide on a baby’s name within that time frame. In Wales and England, you must still register the birth, and the name slot will remain blank. 

You have up to one full year from the registration date to enter a name into the register. In Scotland, parents must apply for a change of name if they did not include a name in the original document.

What Happens If I Don’t Name My Baby?

Failure to name your child within the designated time frame can result in a fine. You may not be able to access health care and other benefits for your child. In the UK, a birth certificate is needed to get a marriage license, a passport, and other services. 

Not providing your child with a completed registration can negatively impact many aspects of their life.

Are Any Baby Names Illegal in the UK?

There aren’t many strict rules about baby names in the UK, but some names stretch the limit. Names that are racist or considered harmful to the child could be illegal and banned in some parts of the UK. Names that are restricted include names that:

  • Are impossible to pronounce
  • Include numbers, symbols, or punctuation marks (not including hyphens or apostrophes)
  • Are considered offensive, vulgar, or blasphemous by the deed poll service
  • Fraudulent (inferring the child has a rank, title, or inherited honor)

Names that do not include at least one first name and one surname will not be accepted.

Can You Change a Baby’s Birth Name?

You can change a baby’s birth name by using a deed poll, which can be located at the gov.uk website. The first name can be changed if the birth was registered in the last 12 months. The birth must be re-registered to change a surname. 

In both cases, each person with parental responsibility must give consent to the change. The birth certificate will not be changed but will be linked to the new deed poll to provide evidence of the change. 

If you need to make a change because of a mistake made on the original register entry, you'll need to fill out an application to update it. The original information will always be present in the register. 

However, if your application is approved, the register will also contain a note in the margin showing the corrected details and a note stating when the correction was made. Birth certificates issued after a correction will also have updated notes in the margins.

How Do I Change My Name?

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The UK Deed Poll Office is not a government agency. Our function is purely as a document provider for the self-declaration of an unenrolled deed poll. We are here to assist in your name change journey, as we have done for over 100,000 UK residents.

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