Welcome to the world, Harper Seven! Once again, Mr and Mrs Beckham haven’t disappointed us. At least their new daughter will be able to take tips from her brothers on how to cope with teasing at school.
For those of us with less exotic tastes, however, children’s names can still cause problems years after the baby books have been packed into the attic. What happens, for example, if you or your ex remarry (or revert to a maiden name) and want your child to change surname?
As with any other decision affecting a child, the most important consideration in Scots law is how it will affect his or her welfare. Because separated parents have a duty to consult each other on major matters to do with welfare, a change of name isn’t something you can do unilaterally.
Names have symbolic as well as practical significance, and if your child is mature enough to express a view this should also be taken into account. Taking the surname of a stepfather (and new siblings) may help a child to feel a part of a new family unit, and avoids difficulties at school. Equally, however, he or she may not want to sever this symbolic connection with a parent.
Our experience at Morton Fraser is that communicating openly and focusing on your child’s needs are the key to successful parenting after separation. However, if you and your ex can’t agree, you can ask the court to decide. Each child’s circumstances are unique so there are no hard and fast rules, although the strength of the child’s relationship with the parent whose name he or she bears has been a decisive factor in many cases.
Court is best avoided, however, and depending on your names – and if you’re not already hampered by a Beckhamesque approach to forenames – perhaps going double-barrelled will solve the problem? As with other issues involving children’s welfare, compromise is often the best policy.