Can I change my name to anything I want?
While you can informally ask your family and friends to use a nickname of your choosing, there are restrictions on the types of names you can legally use. As a general rule you must have a name that authorities, such as Her Majesty’s Passport Office, will accept.
Name changes may be rejected where it:
- will facilitate fraud
- is being changed for frivolous purposes, such as for the result of a bet or for a joke
- is deemed offensive, vulgar, distasteful, taboo or blasphemous, such as where it promotes racial or religious hatred, demeans a child or minority groups, or encourages drug use
- contains grammatical symbols or numbers, or is excessive in length (there is no law against this, but it causes processing errors in automated systems)
- uses a combination of superhero or cartoon characters, or is a phrase not usually considered a name
- is incomprehensible
- is going to be used purely for commercial gain – this includes names that are trademarks used without the written consent of the trademark owner
- will call an authority into question or disrepute
How do I change my name?
There are three different ways you can legally change your name.
1. Take on a new surname when you change marital status
If you choose to adopt your partner’s surname when you get married, your marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate will generally be accepted as evidence that you have changed your name. You may be asked to produce your birth certificate as further evidence of the change when updating official records or applying for a passport, for example.
If you wish to revert to your maiden name after a separation, you can produce a decree absolute or dissolution of a civil partnership certificate as evidence of the name change. A decree absolute is a legal document that shows your marriage has ended. There are certain procedural requirements that must be met to apply for a decree absolute, which our team can help you with. Likewise, our family law specialists can support those wanting to revert to their maiden name by way of dissolution of a civil partnership certificate.
2. Complete a statutory declaration
A statutory declaration is a legal document that must be signed in front of a solicitor or magistrate. Statutory declarations generally follow a standard format, which our team can either draw up for you or witness. You may need to complete a statutory declaration to change your name if you are not a British citizen or you’re living abroad. You will be able to adopt a new name upon completion of a statutory declaration.
3. Complete a deed poll
A deed poll is one of the most widely used and accepted forms of name change documents in the United Kingdom. Using a deed poll will allow you to change any part of your name, including its spelling or the addition or removal of hyphens.
You will be able to complete a deed poll yourself if you’re more than 16 years of age, but it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are at least 18 years of age and not related to you. A deed poll will allow your name change to be reflected on your driving licence or passport. There is set wording that must be used for a deed poll, which our team can draft for you or you can source from a legal stationer. These three declarations must be included in a deed poll:
- I am abandoning my new name
- I will use my new name at all times
- I require all persons to address me by my new name only
You may also wish to enrol your name change, which means there will be a permanent public record of the change. There is no legal requirement to do this, but some authorities will only accept an enrolled deed poll as evidence of a name change. If you are more than 18 years of age, you can enrol a deed poll with the Royal Courts of Justice for a fee of £36. By doing this, your name change would also be advertised in the official newspaper of the UK government, The Gazette, for an additional fee. A copy of your deed poll will be kept in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature for 5 to 10 years, after which the copy will be moved to the National Archives.
There are slightly different procedures that must be met through Scottish courts. The process to change a name in Northern Ireland is similar to that in England and Wales, however independent legal advice is recommended.
If you are under 18 years of age and require an enrolled deed poll, follow the process required for changing the name of a minor.
Changing the name of a minor
You must have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility in order to legally change a child’s name. There may be circumstances where it is not possible to gain everyone’s consent, such as not being able to locate the mother or father; any application for a name change must evidence this, which our team can help with. In England and Wales, mothers are automatically considered to have parental responsibility over a natural child, but a father’s responsibility will depend on other factors. A father will have parental responsibility where:
- the child’s mother and father are married at the time of the child’s birth;
- the father and mother jointly registered the birth of the child (after 1 December 2003);
- the father has a parental responsibility order from the court; or(?)
- there is a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
If the child is 15 years of age or younger and a British or Commonwealth citizen, you can make a name change by way of a deed poll. To do this, deed polls require particular phrases to be used on the application, which our team can draft for you or you can purchase from a legal stationer.
All name changes for minors through deed poll must be enrolled with the Royal Courts of Justice for a payable fee of £36. Any name changes will also become part of the permanent public record by way of publication in The Gazette, the official main newspaper of the UK government. The record will be kept for safe keeping in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature for 5 to 10 years before it will be moved permanently to the National Archives.
If a child is not a British or Commonwealth citizen, you may make a name change by way of statutory declaration, as noted above. If a child is 16 or 17 years of age, they must also consent to the name change; they can do this by signing a deed poll that includes both their old and new name. If a child is more than 16 years of age and has been married or has entered into a civil partnership, they must make their own name change application. People over 18 years of age are considered adults in the eyes of the law and must make their own application, as detailed above.