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Naming your child and family law

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The BBC reported on the 26 January 2014 that a French Court had stopped a child being named Nutella! Many of us know and love the famous chocolate spread but perhaps not enough to name our child after it!

The French Judge ordered that the child be called “Ella” instead and said “it is contrary to the child’s interest to have a name that can only lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts”.

Usually, parents are free to choose names of the children and usually it’s not a problem. At James Maguire & Co and from a family law perspective, we often see a problem with a child’s name (and particularly surname) becoming an issue when parents separate.

For example, a mother may remarry and therefore wish to adopt the new married name and for the children to do the same or to have a double-barrelled surname as a compromise.  Naturally a father may object to that because of the concern that the children will lose his identity. Most parents share parental responsibility for a child and therefore can make unilateral decisions such a changing a child’s name without the other parent’s consent or the permission of the Family Court.

Generally, the English Family Courts like to preserve the child’s original name and to keep the identity to the father if they share the same surname.  Of course, each case is very much fact specific and in family law the test is always what is in the child’s best interest. And a child, subject to age and maturity, may have his or her own views!

There have been a number of cases worldwide where a child’s name has been allowed or not allowed, here are some interesting examples:

  • Iceland: Elvis (yes); Carolina (no)
  • New Zealand: Number 16 Bus Shelter (yes); Yeah Detroit (no)
  • Germany: Legolas (yes); Matti (no)
  • Sweden: Metallica (yes); Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (no)
  • Japan: Akuma (means Devil) – (no)
  • Portugal: Mona Lisa (no)
  • India: Lenin, Stalin, Brezhnev and Khrushchev (yes)

At Maguire Family Law we rarely see such examples but it is more common that the parents separating may have a family law dispute about the children on specific issues relating to such things as name, schooling, religion, health procedures and so on.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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