Skip to main content
Cumbria County Council Logo

Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

5.6.1 Change of Name of a Looked After Child


This procedure applies to all changes of a Looked After child's forenames or surname, formal or informal.

Allowing a child to adopt new forenames and/or surname amounts to a change of name and is therefore covered by this procedure.

Under no circumstances should practitioners and carers agree, condone or act in any way to change a child's name without following this procedure. 


In August 2018, this chapter was extensively updated and should be re-read throughout. Additionally, Appendix A: Request to Change the Name of a Child Looked After being placed with an adoptive family was added.


  1. Necessary Consents
  2. Changing a Name with the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility
  3. Changing a Name without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility

    Appendix A: Request to Change the Name of a Child Looked After being placed with an adoptive family

1. Necessary Consents

Children aged 16 years or over (with mental capacity) are generally free to apply in their own right to change their name via deed poll.

However where a child is subject to a Care Order, Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order, the relevant age is 18. Changing the name of any child under 18 who is subject to any of these orders requires the written consent of everyone with Parental Responsibility. This applies whether the person wishing to change the name is the parent or the child. Where consent is not forthcoming, or all those with Parental Responsibility cannot be found, a court order is required before the child's name can be changed (see Section 3, Changing a Name without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility).

A child who is accommodated under s.20 Children Act 1989 can apply to change their name at 16 if there are no private law orders (e.g. no Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order).

Any child who wishes to change their name should be encouraged to discuss the matter carefully with their Social Worker, parents and/or carers, the Independent Reviewing Officer and any available advocacy service.

2. Changing a Name with the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility

The social worker should contact child's parents/carers to seek their written consent to the child's change of name. Even where the father does not have Parental Responsibility and his consent is not strictly required, it may still be appropriate that he should be consulted and his views obtained. The local authority legal adviser should be asked to clarify this, particularly if there are any unusual circumstances and it is considered undesirable to seek parental consent on this issue.

If those with Parental Responsibility consent, the child's social worker should discuss the matter with the Assistant Director to also seek their agreement to the change of name. The social worker should prepare a written report setting out the reason for the request to change the name and attach a copy of the parents' written consents. This report should be retained on the child's case record.

When all the necessary consents have been obtained, the social worker (or the child/young person depending on their age and level of understanding) should download and complete the forms required for changing a child's name (Minor Deed Poll Pack, HM Courts & Tribunals Service). There is a small fee to pay.

The completed forms and accompanying documents (e.g. written consent from parents/carers) should be sent to:

Queen's Bench Division
Action Department
The Royal Courts of Justice

3. Changing a Name without the Agreement of those with Parental Responsibility

Before seeking a court order it is important to first try and seek the agreement of those with Parental Responsibility.

If the child is subject to a Care Order and consent from all those with Parental Responsibility is not forthcoming, an application to change the child's name would have to be made to the court under section 33(7) Children Act 1989.

If the child is subject to a Child Arrangements Order/Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order, then an application would have to be made under s.13(1) or s.14C3 CA 1989.

Applying for a court order should be a last resort, and the court will expect parties to have tried to reach an agreement first.

In deciding whether to agree to a change of name, the court's paramount consideration will be the welfare of the child.

Changes of surname

Courts tend to resist consenting to changes of surname, because:

  • The initial registration of the child's name is considered to be a profound matter, and - other things being equal - it is in the long-term interests of a child for them to be known by their birth name;
  • The child's surname is seen as an important link to their birth father or mother and as such is an important part of the child's identity.

The application to the court must set out clear reasons why it is in the best interests of a child, to justify a change of surname.

The court will take the child's views into account, and if the child him/herself wants to change surname, the court is more likely to agree.

Changes of first names

If a child is subject to a Care Order/Interim Care Order, and wants to be known by other first names, then no court order is needed, as the Assistant Director in the local authority can make the decision to change a child's first name by exercising their power to determine the extent to which the parents/guardians may meet their Parental Responsibility under s33(3)(b) Children Act 1989, provided they are satisfied it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

Change of names when a child is to be adopted.

The child’s names cannot be changed prior to the making of an Adoption Order unless everyone with parental responsibility has consented to this. It is usual for the child to take their adoptive parents’ surname when the Adoption Order is made. The child’s first names have been given by their birth parents and are therefore an important part of their identity. Preparation of adopters includes the clear expectation they will not change a child’s first name(s). The only circumstances in which this will be considered is where their name is so distinctive that in some exceptional circumstances, it will place them at risk. This would be where the birth family may use this to trace them in their adoptive family and this tracing would bring identifiable risk. In these circumstances, permission for a change of name can only be given by the Assistant Director. This permission must be given before the potential match is presented to Adoption Panel.

If it is likely to be necessary for the child's safety to change their name, this should be raised at the stage of the SHOPA decision being made. The ADM can then consider the significance of the child's names and give a preliminary view. In the adoption process, any matters relating to changing the child's name must be addressed at Matching Meeting 2. This applies to all forenames given by the birth parents, Any changes of name will be exceptional. If the adopters wish to add a middle name of their choosing, this must also be discussed and agreed. The Family Finder will present any request for a change of name to the Assistant Director with the views of the Matching Meeting participants and the child's and adoption service. The Assistant Director will make their decision before the match is considered by Panel and the ADM.

Where it is necessary for the child's name to be changed for safety reasons, the impact on the child must be fully considered. If the adopters are involved in choosing the new name, this cannot start to be used until after the match is agreed. It will be helpful to the child during the transition if the new name is one they have been accustomed to as a second name, or sounds similar to the name they know themselves by. Careful consideration and planning is needed in deciding how and when the child's new name will be introduced and used- particularly as they will have other transitions and losses operating alongside this.

Appendix A: Request to Change the Name of a Child Looked After being placed with an adoptive family

Click here to view Appendix A: Request to Change the Name of a Child Looked After being placed with an adoptive family