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
    JOHN Monday, 09 May 2016



  • Guest
    kaka Thursday, 29 September 2016


    in the uk, no

  • Guest
    Leanne Friday, 07 October 2016

    Help please

    I have the same kids by the same man but the father doesn't want anything to do with our unborn child so therefore is not going on the birth certificate , am I still able to use his last name as I don't want my two children having different last names ?
    Please help

  • Guest
    bob Monday, 24 October 2016


    You can give the baby any surname you want, even if the child has no parents with that surname. So, yes, you can use that surname if you wish.

  • Guest
    nthabi Tuesday, 18 October 2016


    please assist the father of my kids paid ilobola 2006 and he refused to signed with me so that the kids can use his surname also and im no longer happy in the relationship the way he give me bad treatment and he criticize me so i want to take my kids with me to find another place ,please assist me

  • Guest
    james Tuesday, 25 October 2016

    my girlfriend is expecting our baby but not yet divorced, does her ex need to be on the birth certificate


    We live in the UK, my girlfriend is expecting our baby but not yet divorced.

    Can the baby be given my surname and only our names be on the certificate or must her ex be listed on it?

    Many thanks in advance

  • Guest
    Paul Price Friday, 28 October 2016

    Childs surname.


    My daughter has split from her boyfriend and they have a little boy of 15 months old.

    She wants to have her surname to be included in the boys name so it would form a double barrel surname of her and his surname.

    Can she legally do this alone if he refuses.

  • Guest
    Ant Bates Saturday, 05 November 2016

    Annoying advice from the mother in law n social services

    My partner has been told if she registered our son with my surname only she can't register him at the doctors and loses most responsibility to our son is this true or not as we are not married and still together??

  • Guest
    Sarah Monday, 07 November 2016


    When I was born I was given my mums ex husbands surname until she married my dad a year later. Should she have used her maiden name or my dad's name, it was 1975, was she right to do that?

  • Guest
    Sarah Monday, 07 November 2016


    In 1975 my mum registered me in her ex husbands name and not her maiden or my dad's surname. My birth certificate is registered a year later in my dad's surname. Does this sound normal?

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Guest Saturday, 23 January 2021

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