Court considers power of adoptive parents to change child’s name

The surname of the child is normally changed to that of the
adopters on the making of the adoption order. The adoption
application provides for the new names to be identified. As an
exercise of parental responsibility the adoptive parents can choose
not to change the name.

In Re D, L and LA (Care: Change of Forename) (2003) 1 FLR 339
the president of the family division said that although adopters
have the theoretical power to change the first names of a child on
the making of an adoption order, they should not do so before the
order without the agreement of the persons having parental
responsibility or by order of the court. Adoption agencies placing
children for adoption have been advised to consider carefully with
adopters any desire they may have to change first names.  

This is a clear discouragement to adopters to change first
names, but it is perhaps unfortunate that more consideration was
not given to the circumstances in which it might be
There are a number of reasons why there might be a need to change
the child’s first name, at least on an informal basis:
       1.  the child might be given wholly unsuitable names;
       2.  the child might be given an unusual name, which is
readily identifiable, where there is a need for secrecy, so that
there is a risk of  the child being traced through school or the
health services; or
       3.  with an older child, the names might be rejected because
of the associations with treatment in the birth family.

Although the local authority has the power to make an
application for permission to change the name under section 33 of
the Children Act 1989, whether the authority will actually wish to
do so, may be another matter.

Richard White

White and Sherwin Solicitors

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