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31 Changing Your Name

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1. Introduction

2. When may I want to change my name?

3. When am I allowed to change my name?

You can change your name at any time, as long as you are 18 or older, and as long as you are not doing it to commit fraud.

There is no legal process you must follow. All you need do is start using your new name and tell people that you now want to be known by this name.

However, you may be asked for evidence of your name change, for example if you want a new driving licence or passport. See ‘How do I prove I have a new name?’ for the sort of evidence you can use.

Similarly, if you want to change your child’s name there is no special legal process you have to follow. However, other people involved in the child’s upbringing may need to agree to the change. See ‘What if I want to change my child’s name?’.

If you do change your name, make sure that all official documents contain your new name – this will make things simpler. See ‘Who should I tell about my name change?’.

What if I have just married?
You don't have to take your partner's name when you get married. However, if you do, your marriage certificate will be enough evidence of your new name – for example, if you need a new passport. If you want to keep the name you used before marriage, you don’t need to do anything. You can also choose to ‘double-barrel’ (add together) your and your husband’s names. You don’t both have to use the new name. However, if both of you want to use a new name, you may be asked for formal evidence other than the marriage certificate – see ‘How do I prove I have a new name?’.

If a man takes his wife’s surname after getting married, the marriage certificate may be enough evidence of that change. However, because this is less usual than a woman taking her husband’s name, you may have to provide some other evidence.

What if we are not married but want to have the same surname?
If you have a partner, you may want to:

  • take your partner’s name;
  • double-barrel your names; or
  • both take a completely new name.

In any of these situations, you can just start using your new name, though you may need to provide evidence of the change to official bodies, banks etc. This applies whether you are a same-sex or heterosexual couple.

What if I have divorced and want to go back to my former surname?
In this situation, you can simply start using your former surname at any time. You do not need to wait until your divorce is finalised. However, if you need to provide evidence of your change, you will normally need to show your marriage certificate and decree absolute (the document that shows you have divorced). You can also choose to continue using your married name so that, for example, you have the same surname as your children.

If you are separated from your husband, you can use your former surname. Some organisations may want evidence of your change of name (though if they have records of you from the time before you married, they may not need this).

4. What if I am widowed?

5. What if I enter into a civil partnership?

6. What if I want to change my child´s name?

7. What sort of name can I choose?

8. How do I prove I have a new name?

9. Who should I tell about my name change?

10. Further help

11. About this leaflet

The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a completeguide to the law and are not intended to be a guide to how the law will apply to you or to any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since this was printed, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.

If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See 'Further help' for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Citizens Advice.

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Leaflet version: December 2008

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