How do I change my name in the UK?
In order to change your name, you can either do so simply "by usage", which simply means you adopt a name and ask to be referred to by it, or change it officially. To have your name displayed on your driving licence, passport or any official documentation, you will need to change your name legally as changing it by usage will not be sufficient.
If you are married, divorced or adopted, then your government-issued certificate should be evidence of your change of name as long as you are using the name as it appears on the certificate. For example, if you are married but decide to double-barrel your name, your marriage certificate will likely not be accepted for this purpose.
In this case, and all other situations, you will require another document known as a Deed Poll. You can order an Adult Deed Poll online here.
What is a Deed Poll?
A Deed Poll, sometimes mistyped as depol, is a legally binding document in which you state your intention to cease using your current name and adopt a new name for all purposes. These are used when there is no other paperwork issued which can prove the name change, such as a life event including marriage or divorce. There is no government-endorsed, official office which issues Deed Polls, but as it is a legal document it must meet certain strict criteria in order to be valid and recognised by government departments.
Does any name change need a Deed Poll?
Not necessarily. If you have gotten married, your original marriage certificate can be used as proof of a change of name. If you are now divorced, your marriage certificate and Decree Absolute should be accepted to make any amendments to your ID and accounts. Most other cases will require a Deed Poll.
Can I add or remove a middle name?
Yes, if you want to remove a middle name, or even add one in, you can do this with a Deed Poll.
What if my name, or part of my name is in a non-latin script or contains special characters?
Bear in mind that most official ID in the UK can only include latin characters. If your name contains a special character which contains an accent, for example José or Françoise, it will be transliterated. UK passports can't contain accented letters and therefore will be replaced with the nearest corresponding character or characters. Your official name can of course still use them, but it will likely be ommited on most official documentation.
Any non-Latin scripts must be latinised for use, for example if your name is usually written in the Cyrillic script as "Дми́трий", it must be converted into "Dmitri".
What are the different types of Deed Poll?
There is a Deed Poll for an adult (over 16), a child, and a retroactive (replacement) Deed Poll. If an individual is 16 or under, they must have those with parental responsibility make the change on their behalf. A retroactive Deed Poll is essentially a statutory declaration which is made if an individual loses their original.
What is an official Deed Poll?
There is no government-issued, official office which can issue Deed Polls, but as it is a legal document it must meet certain strict criteria in order to be valid and recognised by government departments.
A Deed Poll is made official purely by its wording, presentation and following strict guidelines in having the signature witnessed in order to make the document enactable.
How long does a Deed Poll take to be created?
It can take a single day to draft a Deed Poll, provided that the information supplied is correct. The Deed should then be checked over by a professional to ensure it meets all of the criteria necessary. The person named in the document can then sign the Deed Poll with their two witnesses named, which then makes it legally recognised and ready to use!
Can I just get a digital Deed Poll online?
A Deed Poll can be created online, however it should always be checked by a professional before use. Presentation is also an important part of the reputability and therefore acceptance of a Deed, as all government departments and official bodies will expect a professional looking document to be supplied. With this in mind, it is always advisable to have an professionally drafted, checked and prepared version posted to you to ensure it's not rejected when you need to use it to change your name.
What is the minimum age to get a Deed Poll?
To change your name via Deed Poll in the UK, you need to be at least 16 years old to do so without parental consent. Anyone below this age must have those who hold legal parental responsibility for them change it on their behalf.
Who needs to sign the Deed Poll to make it legally recognised?
In order to make your Deed legal, you will need to have your signature witnessed by two other individuals. You will need to all sign the document together at the same time in order to make this officially binding as you are all witnessing each other sign the document.
Will a Deed Poll be recognised by everyone?
Yes, so long as it has been prepared and witnessed correctly and hasn't been altered or damaged.
Does a Deed Poll expire?
The Deed Poll itself does not expire, though changes in your situation could override it. For example, if you changed your name but then got married, you could use your marriage certificate to change the name you were currently using.
There's an error on my Deed Poll, can I edit it?
No, you can not edit a signed Deed Poll. When you and your witnesses signed the document, you were making a declaration of the information contained in the document at that time. If you then change any information, it will void the declaration and therefore make it unusable. You will need to get a new copy and have it witnessed again.
I want to go back to an old name after I've had a Deed Poll, can I just start using it again?
No, even if you're going back to a previously used name, your Deed Poll will still stand. You will need to get a new Deed in order to revert to the old name.
Where are Deed Polls stored? Is there a Deed Poll register?
Unless you have requested to have your document stored somewhere, or had your Deed Poll enrolled, there is no official record or register of name changes. Unlike birth certificates, Deed Polls aren't public records and therefore if you lose your paperwork you will need to request new copies.
Can we get a Deed Poll together as a couple or a family?
There is no such document as a family or couples Deed Poll. Each individual will need their own document to be completed and witnessed.
This takes the form of a statutory declaration, which must be signed and witnessed in person by a solicitor and you will need to provide evidence of usage to cover the time frame for which you are declaring.
Why is this necessary? Any new Deed Poll you create will only be valid from the date it is signed by you and your witnesses. In the majority of cases, this doesn't cause an issue, but if you are going through a legal process or need to prove it for financial reasons, this more formal document may be requested.
How many times can you change your name by Deed Poll?
There is no limit on the amount of times you can change your name via Deed Poll, though do bear in mind that when you create the Deed, you are attesting to the fact that you intend to use the name long term and for all purposes. If you regularly change your name temporarily, or choose "fun" names, some official bodies such as the Passport Office may reject your request to make the change.
Enrolling a Deed Poll
What is an enrolled Deed Poll?
In the UK, it is not necessary to register your change of name anywhere in order for it to be legally recognised. If you did want to make your change of name a public record, however, you can do so by enrolling your Deed Poll. This is a government service and there is a fee per change registered. This will then be entered into a register which can be searched and viewed by anyone.
If you do intend to enroll the Deed Poll, your documentation will require different wording to a standard Deed Poll.
What are the benefits of an enrolled Deed Poll?
The only real benefit of enroling a Deed Poll is that it will appear in the London Gazzette as an official change, and you will be able to access a copy in the future if you wished. There are no other real benefits to the service, especially based on the additional costs to have it completed. It does not make your name change any more valid in the eyes of the law.
Witnessing a Deed Poll
Who can be witness to my Deed Poll with me?
A witness must be:
- over the age of 18
- not a close relative or someone you live with
- someone who knows who you are
- be of sound mind to make the declaration
- physically present when you sign the Deed
If you're in Jersey, you will need to have your Deed witnessed by a solicitor.
Name Change Laws and Restrictions
Are there any restrictions on names you can use in the UK?
Under UK law, technically there isn't, as long as it is not chosen with the intention of being fraudulent. Some companies or government departments do however have their own guidelines on what they will accept as a name, for example, the UK Passport Office will not issue a passport containing obscenities.
Bear in mind any impact a "fun" name may have on your life before choosing one. If you work in a professional or legal setting, it may cause issues if you chose a name such as Donald Duck!
At Vital Certificates, we will not issue any Deed Poll which we consider to be:
- impossible to pronounce
- vulgar, offensive or blasphemous
- promoting criminal activities
- promoting hatred including racial, religious or homophobic
- showing ridicule for any groups, government departments, companies or organisations
- a title which may be deemed misleading such as Baron, Lord, etc.
Do I need a Deed Poll to change my title?
No. If you are Mrs or Miss and wish to be known as Ms or Mx, for example, you can simply start to use that title. A title is not a part of your legal name and therefore you can opt to change it as you choose.
If I change my name by Deed Poll do I need to use it for everything?
When you create your Deed, you are making a declaration that you intend to use the new name for all purposes. Therefore you should update all of your official documentation to reflect the change. However, it is sometimes the case that someone may wish to still be known by their old name for certain purposes. For example, if a woman is known professionally by her maiden name, she may wish to continue to be known by that name, even if her legal name has changed. There is nothing illegal about this and is commonly practiced.
Lost and replacement Deed Polls
I've lost my Deed Poll, how do I get a replacement?
If you previously had a Deed and have since lost it, you can simply order a new one to replace it. This is more than sufficient for most people's needs. If, however, you need to prove you have been officially using your current name since a certain date, you will need a retroactive Deed Poll. This is a more formal document which must be witnessed by a solicitor and is usually only required if you need to provide you were using your current name at a certain point in the past, for example for legal or financial reasons.
I've got a Deed Poll but it's damaged, does it matter?
If it's lightly creased or has marks but is still perfectly legible, it may still be accepted for use. However if it is heavily damaged, has been defaced or had any of the seals broken it will not be usable anymore. To ensure acceptance, it would always
Is a Deed Poll the same as a Statutory Declaration?
No. A Deed Poll is a more formal procedure to change your name and can be done simply by having your signature witnessed by two other individuals. A statutory declaration must be witnessed and signed by a solicitor and doesn't hold the same long-term use as a Deed Poll for the process of changing your name. The only time a statutory declaration is helpful is for a retroactive replacement Deed Poll.
Child Deed Poll
Who needs to give permission for a child under 16 to change their name?
Anyone with parental responsibility must give them permission for the name change to happen. They must both sign the Deed along with the two witnesses for the Deed to be legally recognised. If someone who holds parental responsibility is unable, or unwilling to give permission, it may be possible to make the change regardless, but you must meet certain guidelines in order to do so.
How do I work out who has parental responsibility?
The child's mother
A child’s birth mother will automatically have parental responsibility at birth, or if she either:
- has formally adopted the child
- has been appointed as the legal parent by a Parental Order from the courts
The child's father
If the parents were married at the time of birth, then each parent automatically has parental responsibility. He will also have parental responsibility if he:
- has adopted a child
- has been appointed as the legal parent by a Parental Order from the court
However if the birth parents aren't married at the time of birth, the rules on parental responsibility depend on when and where the child was born. See below for more information:
For births registered in the U.K. and the Bailiwick of Guernsey
- If the birth was registered or re-registered after 1st December 2003 in England or Wales and the father's details are given on the birth certificate
- If the birth was registered or re-registered after 4th May 2006 in Scotland and the father's details are given on the birth certificate
- If the birth was registered after 15th April 2002 in Northern Ireland and the father's details are given on the birth certificate
- If the birth was registered after 4th January 2010 in Guernsey and the father's details are given on the birth certificate
- If the natural father marries the birth mother at any time after the birth
- If the mother and father enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement (PRA)
- If the father is legally granted parental responsibility by the courts
If the child's mother conceives through an IVF procedure or artificial insemination and has a female partner, the partner will automatically have parental responsibility for the child if they are married, or in a civil partnership, at the time the birth mother became pregnant or any time before the birth of the child. If both parents reside in England, Wales or Norther Ireland, the co-parent will also gain legal responsibility if she marries or enters into a civil partnership with the mother any time after the birth.
Other situations where a second female partner can gain responsibility includes formal adoption or has been granted a Parental Order.
A second male parent can gain parental responsibility with the biological father by either formally adopting the child as a co-parent, or has been granted a Parental Order.
Any parent or parents named on the child's adoption certificate is automatically granted parental responsibility for the child. This status supersedes any previous responsibility held by any other parents or guardians, who essentially lose their rights of responsibility.
What if someone has parental responsibility for my child, but they won't agree to the change?
If you share responsibility with another individual but they won't give permission for the change, this can make things difficult. If they wish to, they could block the change from happening and you may need to make a legal challenge for the Deed Poll to be created without their permission. It's always best not to continue regardless of any opposition, as doing so could create a lot of problems in the long run.
What if someone has parental responsibility for my child, but I don't know where they are or don't have contact?
If you don't have regular contact or knowledge of the whereabouts of the other person who shares parental responsibility for your child, you shouldn't have any issues making the change yourself. You should however always make a concerted effort to contact the person and make them aware of your intentions. When you create your letter of consent to support the Deed Poll, you will need to demonstrate that you have exhausted all avenues in trying to seek the other individuals permission before you take full responsibility for the change yourself.
Does anything else need to be provided with a child Deed Poll when requesting records are updated?
Yes, if you are changing your child's name on their behalf, you must also support the Deed Poll with a letter of consent. This states who you are, your relationship to the child and that you hold parental responsibility for them. If you do not provide this letter, the Deed will not be accepted when you attempt to have their details updated.
If you purchase a Deed from Vital Certificates, we will supply you with a digital guide on consent letters which includes how to determine who holds parental responsibility as well as how to draft the letter.
What is a letter of consent and why do I need one?
A letter of consent is required for a Deed Poll created for a child under 16. Anyone with parental responsibility needs to give permission for the name change and the letter supports the completed Deed. It is simply a declaration of your responsibility and gives whomever you're presenting the documents to a clear understanding of your relationship to the child.
Changing Your Name After Divorce or Separation
If I'm a divorced woman do I need a Deed Poll to go back to my maiden name?
Not necessarily. If you are going back to your maiden name and your divorce is finalised, you should be able to present your birth and marriage certificate, along with your Decree Absolute in order to show the link between previous name changes.
If you've lost your Decree Absolute, or the divorce hasn't yet been finalised, you can simply get a Deed Poll and make the change yourself. This will be accepted on it's own to support any change requests you make.
Can I go back to my maiden name without a divorce?
Yes you can, but only by using a Deed Poll. As you would require your Decree Absolute to prove the legal separation, you would need the Deed to replace this document.
I'm divorced but want to use a name other than my maiden name, can I do this?
If you decide to either revert to or adopt a different surname to your birth (maiden) name, you can do so, but you will need a Deed Poll in order for this to be accepted.
If I'm widowed do I need a Deed Poll?
No, if you wish to revert to your maiden name upon being widowed, your late partner's death certificate and marriage certificate should always be sufficient to make the request.
Using your Deed Poll outside of the UK
Can I use my Deed outside of the UK?
Yes, though it must first go through a process known as legalisation, also called attestation. This involves a series of verifications and stamps from government departments and legal officials to make it legally recognised in the country in which you are presenting it. This process will differ dependent on where you are going, so it's best to speak to one of our specialists who can advise you.
How do I legalise or Apostille my Deed Poll?
If you're using the Deed overseas and need to legalise it, the process depends on your destination. You may only require an Apostille, if you're using it in another Hague Convention country, but you will require further steps if you're presenting it outside of this zone. To get help with this, just get in touch with our friendly team of specialists who can advise you.
Do I need to translate my Deed Poll?
It may be necessary to translate it, dependant on the destination where you intend to use it. Some countries will accept a document in English provided it has been correctly legalised by the relevant authorities. However, many will request a translated version to support the original. You will need to check your individual requirements to ensure it is accepted for purpose. If you do need a translation, Vital Certificates can help with this, as well as any legalisation procedures. Just get in touch with our friendly team of specialists!
Yes, in fact many people do so as it can form part of your period of living as your true gender before your formal transition occurs. This can often be a prerequisite to applying for your Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). If you'd feel happier using a different name straight away, you can make the change by getting a Deed Poll whenever you like and start using your new name practically straight away.
Yes, your name will still need to be changed via Deed Poll even if you have your GRC issued.
Absolutely. Many non-binary people choose to adopt a name they feel better reflects who they are and this can be done by getting a Deed Poll. Bear in mind however that your official ID will still bear your assigned gender, and the UK government only officially recognises two genders at the moment.
No, they shouldn't be able to. Your transition or change of name should be yours to disclose as you choose. There is no central registry of name changes, and all requests handled by Vital Certificates are done in absolute confidentiality. We will never disclose any information about any Deed Polls we have issued to anyone other than the customer, including previous names.