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Changing your name

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Changing your name

If you want to be known by a different name you can change your name at any time, provided you do not intend to deceive or defraud another person. There is no legal procedure to follow in order to change a name. You simply start using the new name. You can change your forename or surname, add names or rearrange your existing names.

Although there is no legal way to change a name, you may want evidence that you have changed your name (see under heading Evidence of change of name).

Changing details on a birth certificate can be complicated. If you wish to do this you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Once you have decided to change your name, you can use the new name for all purposes, for example, publishing marriage bans, legal proceedings and obtaining, or changing details on a driving licence or passport.

Changing a child’s name

A child’s name can be changed at any time, provided it is not to deceive or defraud another person. There is no legal procedure which must be followed in order to change a child’s name, providing all the people who need to give their consent have done so. The parent simply starts using the new name. A child’s forename or surname can be changed, names can be added or rearranged.

Although there is no legal way to change a child’s name, you may need evidence that a child’s name has been changed (see under heading Evidence of change of name).

Changing details on a child’s birth certificate can be complicated. If you wish to do this you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

As a child or young person you cannot choose your own names until you are 16 years old. Between 16 and 18, your parent or guardian must complete a change of name deed. You must give your written consent.

Once a child’s name has been changed it can be used for all purposes, such as starting school and registering with a GP. However, evidence may be required (see under heading Evidence of change of name).

Children under two

For children under two years of age, a change of forename may be entered on their birth certificate within two years on the production of either:-

  • a certificate of baptismal name which has been completed and signed, or
  • if the child has not been baptised, a certificate of name given other than baptism which has been completed by the parent(s) or the child's guardian.

All appropriate forms can be obtained from the General Register Office (see under heading General Register Office), and should be returned to that office. The Registrar General will then add the new names to the birth record. Copies can be requested, but a fee is payable.

Re-registration procedures

It may be possible to re-register the birth of a child either where the mother and father of the child are not married to each other or where the mother and father of the child marry each other after the birth.

Where the mother and natural father marry each other

If the mother and natural father of a child marry each other after the child's birth, they should both apply for the re-registration of the birth to the General Register Office in order for the birth entry to show the child as having been legitimated by the marriage (see under heading General Register Office). This procedure is required in all cases where the mother and natural father marry after the birth.

Where the mother is not married to the child's natural father

Where the birth of a child has been registered and no details have been given relating to the natural father, the mother and father may apply for re-registration of the birth by making a joint application.

This is a complicated process with a number of conditions to be fulfilled. For further information you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Children over two and under eighteen years of age

In Northern Ireland anyone who wishes to do so can change their name. Changes in name or surname of people born or legally adopted in Northern Ireland can be recorded against the appropriate entry in the birth or adoption register.

Once the child’s name has been changed it can be used for all purposes, for example at school, or registering with a GP. Only one change of forename and one change of surname may be recorded for a child between the age of two and 18 years.

Only a Qualified person can apply to have a child’s name changed. No child under the age of 16 has any right to object to their name being changed, unless they apply for a court order to prevent the change. Qualified persons include:-

  • the father and mother of the child or where child is adopted, the adoptive parents
  • if one of the parents is dead, the surviving parent
  • if the parents of the child are not married, the mother of the child. However, if the father has been given parental responsibility for the child, the application must be signed by both parents. If the father won't give his consent, the mother must apply to the courts for a change of name application
  • if both parents are dead or if the parents were not married and the mother is dead, then the guardian or another person with responsibility for the child.

If the parents are divorced, both signatures are required. This means that if the parents are or have been married, neither of them can change the child’s name without the consent of the other.

People aged eighteen and over

If you are 18 or over, one change of forename and up to three changes of surname may be recorded. A period of five years must elapse between successive changes of surname. Application forms may be obtained from the General Register Office (see under heading General Register Office).

Evidence of change of name

You do not need legal proof that you have changed your name, provided that you can be identified by your new chosen name. However, there are some circumstances, for example, applying for a passport, when additional evidence of the change of name is required. The evidence required varies depending on the purpose for which it is needed and can include:-

  • a certified copy of a birth entry
  • a letter from a responsible person
  • a public announcement
  • a statutory declaration
  • a deed poll.

A certified copy of a birth entry

A certified copy of a birth entry will be evidence of a change of name if the new name has been recorded in the birth entry.

Letter

A letter from a responsible person, such as a GP, solicitor, minister, priest or MP, will often be enough evidence that you have changed your name. The letter should state that the person has known you under both names and that the change of name is to be used for all purposes. Some solicitors use a standard form, signed by the client, which can be used as proof of the name change.

Public announcement

You may want to record your name change by placing an advertisement in a local or national newspaper. This should state that you have stopped using your previous name and have assumed a new one. A copy of the advertisement can then be used as evidence that you have changed your name.

Statutory declaration

For most purposes, a statutory declaration is generally accepted as evidence of your change of name.

A statutory declaration is a statement, recording your intention to abandon your old name and adopt a new one.

Preparing a statutory declaration can be complicated. If you want to prove your change of name by making a statutory declaration you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Deed poll

A deed poll is a formal statement to prove that your name has been changed. For most people it will not be necessary to prepare a deed poll as evidence that they have changed their name. However, there may be cases when a deed poll is required. For example, some professional bodies require members to produce a deed poll as proof of any name change.

As a child or young person under 18 you can only have your change of name recorded by deed poll by a person who has parental responsibility for you. However, if you are over 16, this can only be done with your consent.

You can have a deed poll prepared by a solicitor however solicitors’ fees for preparing deed polls can vary and can be expensive. It is advisable to find out the cost before proceeding. Alternatively you can prepare your own deed poll on a prescribed form, available from law stationers.

Changing your name by deed poll can be complicated. If you want to use a deed poll as evidence of change of name you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

General Register Office

The General Register Office can be contacted at:-
NISRA
Colby House
Stranmillis Court
Belfast
BT9 5RR

Tel: 0300 200 7890
Website: https://geni.nidirect.gov.uk

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