A French Court has recently prohibited a couple from naming their daughter ‘Nutella’ after the popular hazelnut chocolate spread.

French parents are usually free to choose their baby’s name, unless it is deemed contrary to the child’s interests.  In this case, the registrar alerted the local prosecutor when the couple sought to register the name following the child’s birth in September 2014.  The matter was then referred to the Family Court. The Judge concluded that the name would cause ’mockery or disparaging remarks’ and refused to register it. The parents failed to attend the court hearing. In their absence, the Court ruled that the girl should be renamed Ella.

There is no shortage of unusual baby names, particularly amongst celebrities, who often strive to find a unique name for their offspring: Moon Unit (daughter of Frank Zappa); Fifi Trixibelle (daughter of Bob Geldof); Sage Moonblood (son of Silvester Stallone); Pilot Inspektor (son of actor Jason Lee); Audio Science (son of actress Shannyn Sossamon); Buddy Bear (son of Jamie Oliver)…to name but a few.  Are these names any less likely to cause mockery or disparaging remarks?

The UK rules on baby names are amongst the most liberal in the world.  There is no restriction on parents registering the name of their choice, unless the name is deemed to be offensive. 

When parents separate, the child’s name can become a contentious issue, particularly the child’s surname, with each parent preferring their own surname, to reflect the child’s identity. The Court will only intervene if agreement cannot be reached between the parents. If only one parent has parental responsibility for the child, they can decide the surname for the child. Where both parents share parental responsibility, consensus is required.  In the absence of agreement, it is open to one of the parents to make an application to the Court and ask the Court to authorise a change of surname, by way of a Specific Issue Order.  If a parent wants to prevent the other parent changing the surname, they can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. Quite often, such issues are compromised by way of a double barrel surname, incorporating both parents’ surnames.