In Britain, you’re free to give your child whatever name you choose. That’s not the case everywhere. In New Zealand, for instance, one couple decided to call their son Superman…but only because officials refused to let them call him 4Real.
WHO REGISTERS THE BIRTH?
If you are married to the baby’s mother, either of you can register the birth alone, that is without the other partner present – provided you take your marriage certificate with you.
But, if you are not married, it’s more complicated
- If you want your details to be entered in the register, then you must go with your partner to sign the register together.
- If you are unable to go to the register office with your baby’s mother, you can make a statutory declaration on form 16 (or form 16W for births which took place in Wales) stating that you are the baby’s father. The mother then gives this to the registrar.
- If the baby’s mother is unable to go to the register office with you, she can make a similar declaration using the same form to acknowledge you as the father of the baby.
WHAT SURNAME WILL THE BABY HAVE?
- Whoever registers the birth can give the child any name and surname they choose.
- Even if you are registered on the birth certificate as the baby’s father, you have no right to insist that the child is given your surname.
- Married couples can choose any surname for their children – the surname does not have to be that of either parent.
CAN THE SURNAME BE CHANGED?
You can only change the baby’s surname if:
- You and your partner apply to re-register the baby because you were not married when the birth was registered and your details were not listed.
- You and your partner marry after your baby was born. Then the birth must be re-registered even if the baby was given your surname on the original birth certificate.
OTHER THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Mistakes on the birth register can take a lot of time to get right – so check carefully that all the information you have and give is correct.
- For unmarried fathers, from December 2003 (4th May 2006 in Scotland), having your name on the birth certificate as the father bestows Parental Responsibility (if you’re married, you get it automatically anyway).
- If you miss the boat, don’t despair. It’s never too late. One dad got his name on his daughter’s birth certificate when she was 30.
- If you marry after the birth, get the birth certificate changed to reflect this. Only then will your child’s rights of inheritance be fully protected.
- Remember that for any child born before December 2003 (4th May 2006 in Scotland) to unmarried parents, the father’s name on the birth certificate gives that father only limited legal rights in respect of his child. To secure clear rights, such a father also needs to obtain Parental Responsibility (click the link above to find out what this is and how to get it).
- If you want another copy of the short or longer birth certificate, this can be bought online, by post or telephone, or through the register office where the birth was registered.
Find out more
About the author
Clare Kirby qualified as a lawyer in 1983 and worked for several years in industry. She founded Kirby & Co in 1997. As a member of Resolution and an advanced member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel she is experienced and respected in the field of family law. Trained as a collaborative lawyer, Clare offers clients a range of options – traditional, and collaborative law – to best meet the needs of the individual clients.
Updated: September 2017