What Surname Will The Baby Have?

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. 





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.


  • 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.


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.


  • 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

How is the birth registered?

Parental Responsibility: you and the law


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

Hide comments (23)


  • Guest
    Jon Friday, 18 November 2016

    My wife registered our baby with her/her father's surname. Is this legal?

    My wife registered our baby with her/her father's surname whilst we were still married. Is this legally possible? does she has legal rights to do so?

    I was on baby's birth certificate.


  • Guest
    Rich Monday, 02 January 2017

    Surname query


    My ex partner who is the mum of my 6 year old son is pregnant and wants to give her new baby my surname as she doesn't want her children to have different last names even though this child is not mine. I'm not happy about this and was wondering whether she can register the new baby with my surname?

    Thanks in advance

  • Guest
    me Wednesday, 01 March 2017


    Yup she sure can, she can give the baby any first name and surname she wants.

  • Guest
    Lisa Sunday, 14 May 2017

    First name

    Does a dad have any legal rights on baby's first name. Father has spilt from mother and she won't let him have a say in baby's first name.

  • Guest
    Wendy Wednesday, 31 May 2017


    Hi, is possible give to my son my (Jezik) and partner (Cuddon) surname so my son will Tobias Jezik Cuddon...?

  • Guest
    Lee Wednesday, 12 July 2017


    Our son and his (girlfreind) have just had a baby does he have a right to be at the registry office to register the baby

  • Guest
    John Monday, 02 October 2017


    My partner and I live in China, she is currently going through an annulment right now. We want to register the birth as British. Can the baby take the fathers (British citizen) surname or does it have to take the mothers?

  • Guest
    Bambi Wednesday, 13 December 2017


    I’m not married OR with the father of my baby.
    Because of this I’d like to give baby my surname as she will be with me for the majority of the time.
    He wants baby to have his surname so I’ve tried to compromise with both our surnames.
    It’ll be his then mine last but he wants his last.

    Does he have any right to this?

    I feel uncomfortable giving baby his surname.

  • Guest
    Roland Monday, 18 December 2017

    Crazy story

    My girlfriend is pregnant. She uses her ex husband's family name officially. She doesn't want to marry yet and want to give her ex husband's family name to our child. Can she do this? What can I do if I want my family name to the child?
    Thank you.

  • Guest
    Leah Saturday, 20 January 2018

    Potential complications..?

    My partner and I aren't not married.

    If I give our child their fathers surname, what potential complications could this cause in the future?

    For example: If I wanted to take our child abroad on holiday, would I need permission from the father to do so as the passport will have a different surname to the mother?

    Are there any other known potential complications??

Leave your comment

Guest Monday, 25 January 2021

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