As an adult you may change your name simply by using a new name. However, you will run into difficulty if you need to prove the change of name to institutions such as banks, passport office, DVLA etc.
To evidence the change of name, you will need a Change of Name Deed (also known as a Deed Poll). Some institutions will need to see the original Deed. Others will accept a certified copy.
A woman often adopts her husband’s surname when she marries. This change of name can be evidenced by producing the marriage certificate. If a woman then wishes to revert to her maiden name because of divorce or separation, she does not have to wait until the divorce is finalised before doing so. She can change her surname whenever she wishes.
A parent should not change the name of their children without first having the written consent of the other parent and if the parents are separated it is best to obtain legal advice on the matter. In the event of a disagreement it is open to either parent to apply to the Court for a decision as to whether it is in the best interests of the child to change their name.
If you were born in England & Wales, it is possible to enrol a Change of Name Deed, but this process is completely optional and does not mean that your change of name is any more “legal”.
Enrolling a Change of Name Deed means that it is lodged for safe-keeping in the Enrolment Books of the Supreme Court of Judicature, which is found at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is not a requirement to enrol your Change of Name Deed; it is simply a way of making a safe (and public) record of your change of name.
Deeds that have been enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice are kept there for 5–10 years, after which they are taken to the National Archives at Kew in Surrey.
If you want your Change of Name Deed to be suitable for enrolment, there are several documents that need to be drawn up, one of which needs to be declared (in person) by someone who has known you for at least 10 years.
For advice in relation to changing your name or the names of your children, please contact one of the lawyers in our specialist family team.