This information applies to Scotland.
Coronavirus - registering births and still births
Check your local council website for updates on how to register a birth in your area. Find your local council on mygov.scot.
How to register a birth
In Scotland, every birth must be registered within 21 days of the birth.
This applies even if the baby is stillborn or lives only for a short time. The doctor or midwife will issue a medical certificate of stillbirth, and this certificate is used to register the birth.
Registering a birth is free. However, there are fees for getting copies of a birth certificate.
Where to register a birth
You must register the birth with the registrar of births and deaths anywhere in Scotland. Check your local council's website for the address of the local registrars' offices. You might need to make an appointment. Find your local council on mygov.scot.
If the birth takes place when the mother is at sea or in an aircraft, the administrative officer on the vessel or craft must record the details and send them to the National Records of Scotland.
Who can register a birth
There are rules about who can register the birth.
If the natural parents of the child are married, either the mother or the father can provide the required information to the registrar, who will register the birth.
If the natural parents are not married:
- the mother can provide the information to the registrar even if she's under 16
- the father can provide the information but only if he has the agreement of the mother. She must give this agreement by signing a declaration (Form DPM) and the father must sign a declaration (Form 27). If an unmarried father jointly registers the birth of his child with the child's mother, he will automatically acquire parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
Same-sex female couples
If a woman has a child by donor insemination or fertility treatment, was in a civil partnership or marriage at the time of the treatment, and her civil partner or spouse is the child’s legal parent, either woman can register the birth on her own.
If the women weren't civil partners or married, the natural mother can register the birth alone, but her female partner can only register it in certain circumstances. If the mother and her female partner aren't civil partners or married but the natural mother’s cohabiting partner registers the child’s birth jointly with the mother, this will ensure that she has full parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
People who aren't the parents
If neither the natural mother nor the natural father nor, in the case of a same-sex female couple, the natural mother or her partner can provide information to the registrar, any of the following people can provide the information:
- someone living in the house where the child was born
- any person present at the birth
- a relative of either parent who has knowledge of the birth
- any person responsible for the child.
Information you need to register a birth
The following details must be entered on the register:
- the date, time and place of the birth
- the child’s name and sex
- the natural mother’s full name - including her birth name or maiden name if she uses a different married name
- the natural mother’s address
- the natural mother’s occupation or last occupation
- if the natural parents are married, the father’s full name and occupation or last occupation. If the parents are not married, the father’s full name and occupation are required if the father’s name is on the birth certificate
- if the natural parents are married, the date and place of the marriage
- if the natural mother is in a civil partnership or marriage, or the female partner of a mother who isn't in a civil partnership is to be registered as the second mother, her full name and occupation or last occupation.
Information that's needed but doesn't go on the register
Other details are needed for statistical reasons but don't appear on the register.
These details relate to the natural mother’s marital status, whether or not she has other children and where and when she was born. Other details about the natural father’s date and place of birth will only be needed if the parents are married or his name is on the birth certificate. If the mother is in a civil partnership or marriage, or the female partner of a natural mother who isn't in a civil partnership is to be registered as the second mother, her date and place of birth will be required.
Although proof of the details given to the registrar isn't necessary, it may be useful to take along any relevant birth certificates and marriage, civil partnership or divorce certificates to make sure the details are correct. It's an offence to give false information to the registrar.
Who can choose a child’s name
Who can choose a child’s name depends on whether one or both parents have parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
A married couple or civil partners will have to agree on the choice of name for the child because each has an equal right to choose a name for the child. They will have to agree on the child’s first name and surname. The child of an opposite-sex married couple doesn't have to have the father’s surname.
If only the mother has parental responsibilities and rights towards the child, then only she has the right to choose the child’s names. She can call the child whatever she wishes. This means that in an opposite-sex couple, the mother can give the child the father’s surname if she chooses, even if they're not married. Choosing the father's name for the child isn't the same as registering him as the father of the child.
Naming the father on a birth certificate
If the natural parents are married, both have to have their names registered.
If the natural parents aren't married, the following points are important:
- the natural mother doesn't have to give details of the father on the birth certificate. She can leave that part of the form blank
- the natural father can't register his name unless the mother agrees
- when both the natural mother and father agree to the father’s name being registered, they can go to the office together. However, if only one of the parents goes to the registrar’s office they have to have a document called a declaration, signed by the other parent, to prove that each agrees to the father’s name being added. There are special forms available at the registrar’s office to make the declaration
- the natural mother can register the father as the father if she has a court order declaring that he is the father.
Since 4 May 2006, an unmarried father who jointly registers the birth of his child with the child’s mother automatically acquires full parental responsibilities and rights towards the child and he will share these with the child’s mother. An unmarried father who jointly registered the birth of his child before 4 May 2006 doesn't automatically acquire these rights. He would have to enter into a parental responsibilities agreement with the child’s mother or go to court to acquire these rights and responsibilities.
Registering a father on a child's birth certificate may also have the following effects:
- the Child Maintenance Service or the courts could use the certificate as evidence of paternity for maintenance proceedings
- the courts could use the certificate as evidence of adultery
- the father could use the certificate as evidence if he wants to apply to the courts for parental rights and responsibilities
- the certificate gives very strong evidence that he is the father because his name can only be added if both the mother and father agree that he is the father or a court order states that he is
- the child will have information about who both parents are.
Making changes to a birth certificate
Changing the child’s name
A child’s forename and surname may be changed once before they are two years old by applying to the registrar general to record the change. Changing your child's forename can include a change to a middle name. The original name will be removed from the certificate. The registrar will help you to do this and explain who can apply to change the child’s name.
Once a child is over two years old, their birth certificate can be amended to show a new forename or surname. The original name will also remain on the birth certificate. However, a child’s surname can also be re-registered before the age of two if the father’s name is added to the birth certificate after the original registration.
Read more about changing a child's name.
You can get more information from the National Records for Scotland website.
Adding the father’s name
The father’s name can be added to the birth certificate at a date after the original registration.
The registrar will help you do this but only if there's evidence that the father is the father, for example, a signed declaration by the mother. This is called re-registration. Find out how to re-register a birth on the National Records of Scotland website.
An unmarried father who jointly re-registers the birth of his child with the child's mother in order to add his name to the certificate will automatically acquire full parental responsibilities and rights.
Removing the father's name
The father's name can't be removed from a child's birth entry if he's the biological father of the child. A father's name can only be removed from a child's birth entry if it has been established in court that he's not the biological father of the child.
Same-sex female couples and the mother’s partner’s name
When a child’s mother and her female partner are civil partners or married, the mother conceived the child by donor insemination or fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009, and the mother’s civil partner or spouse is the child’s legal parent, both the mother and her civil partner or spouse’s names must be included on the birth certificate.
However, if the child’s mother and her female partner aren't civil partners or married and the female partner’s name wasn't originally entered on the register, but the mother conceived the child by donor insemination or fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009, and the mother’s partner is the child’s legal parent, the mother and her female partner can re-register the birth to include the female partner’s name. This will mean that the partner gains full parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
Correcting mistakes on a birth certificate
If a mistake has been made on the original birth certificate, the parent(s) can apply to have it corrected by contacting the registrar general. The registrar general will need evidence that a mistake has been made and proof of the corrected information.
It's an offence to give false information when registering a birth. However, the registrar general wouldn't necessarily take action against someone who made a genuine mistake when registering a birth.
What to do if a birth hasn't been registered
A birth that hasn't been registered within 3 months needs to be approved by the registrar general before it can be registered.
The registrar general will investigate the matter. If the birth was recent, this may be cleared quite quickly.
But if the birth took place years before, they may require a qualified informant - someone alive at the time of the birth who can give information as a witness.
If a birth certificate is needed urgently, for example to apply for a passport or as proof for a claim for a social security benefit, it may be possible to use other sources of evidence, for example a school record or a baptismal certificate, to speed up the process.
Transgender people and birth certificates
If you're a transgender person and have obtained legal recognition of your acquired gender, and your birth was registered in the UK, you can get a new birth certificate.
The new birth certificate will be the same as the original birth certificate but will show a different gender and, usually, a different name. It won't disclose that you have changed gender.
You'll still be able to obtain copies of your original birth certificate. There's more information about gender recognition on the National Records of Scotland website.
Getting copies of a birth certificate
How you get copies of a birth certificate depends on where in the UK the birth was registered. It might have been registered:
- in Scotland - order a copy of a birth certificate from the Scotland's People website
- in England or Wales - order a copy of a birth certificate through GOV.UK
- in Northern Ireland - order a copy of a birth certificate through nidirect.
Birth certificates from abroad
If you were born abroad, the birth may also have been registered in the UK. If so, a copy of the certificate can be obtained in the usual way - see above.
If the birth hasn't been registered in the UK, you may be able to get a copy of the birth certificate from the country where you were born. This can be done by contacting the relevant embassy in the UK.