Change of Name: The Law and Practice (4th edition)
£35, Wildy, Simmonds and Hill Publishing
Someone comes to your office and wants to change their entire family’s name to the names of all the members of the England football squad. What do you do? The law on names is generally straightforward. Deed polls are simply devices to record your change of name. You can also enrol the deed if you are a Commonwealth citizen and advertise the change.
All simple. The complications arise when children are involved, especially when there have been changes in relationships such as divorce, or the end of civil partnerships, gender reassignment, relationships with no formalities at all, and parentage by non -traditional ways. Written by a retired circuit judge and former district judge in the Principal Registry of the Family Division, this book is excellent in explaining those complexities.
It also makes the valid but not so well-known point about Christian names: one cannot change a Christian name except on the religious rite of Confirmation. The book is also very good about the practical effects of a change of name and who should be informed. This is relevant to everyone but also professions which have different rules about this. There is a useful and clear set of precedents.
What do you do if you are unsure about the choice of name and the reasons behind it? I have known clients who have taken the name of famous film stars, and one who chose a name of an illegal substance. Unfortunately, the film star was an actress from the 1950s and no one realised it was a famous name. So, if you want to have a famous person’s name beware how fickle stardom is. Some clients want to change their name to escape their notorious past. I refused to help one client change their name. There was nothing wrong with the one she had chosen – she wanted to change her name every few weeks.
There are various ways of effecting name change. Your client could seek a private act of parliament or petition for a royal licence.
This book could be improved with a section on capacity and fraud. There might be legitimate reasons for a new name, but what is our duty when, for example, a client continues to use the old name in some circumstances and not all the time?
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup & Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury
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