Can you change your child’s surname after divorce?

When couples fight over custody of children, mothers sometimes express a wish to change their children’s surname after divorce. This desire is frequently brought about because of the bitterness against the father and a wish for the children to cut off ties with the father.

The changing of a child’s surname (or name) may be effected by deed poll (if the father agrees) after matrimonial proceedings or by court order during matrimonial proceedings. The changing of a child’s surname (or name) is a serious matter and the court will not condone such a change unless there are compelling reasons to do so (L v L [1996] 2 SLR(R) 529). This is regardless of whether sole custody has been granted to a parent.

In deciding whether or not to condone the change of a child’s surname, the paramount consideration is the bests interests of the child. In the case of TDI v TDJ [2016] SGFC 45, the court outlined that the court should have regard to all relevant factors such as:

  • The reasons for the registration of a particular name or surname for the child;
  • The reasons given by the parent for seeking to change the child’s registered name or surname;
  • The lapse of time between the registration of the child’s name or surname and attempted change;
  • The impact of any change in name or surname on the child (for instance, in terms of his official documentation such as his school and bank records); and
  • The importance of maintaining a link between the parent and the child through the name or surname after divorce; and
  • The wishes of the child on his choice of name or surname where he is of sufficient maturity.

It is advisable to seek your ex-spouse’s consent if you wish to change your child’s surname as this is a serious matter. Unless there are compelling reasons to justify the change, the court will generally not allow it.

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