But What If I Want to Call my Child Uncle Ben?
After spending hours searching through baby name books, deciding on your favourite celebrity or sportsperson and enduring countless battles over which name is best, you’ve finally decided upon the name of your child. It is often hard enough to find a name both parents agree on, let alone having to consider whether the state would also be in favour.
There has been a recent spate of court cases in foreign jurisdictions where parents have been barred from naming their child as they wished. Examples include French parents being prevented from naming their child Nutella, being unable to name your child after the Mona Lisa in Portugal or Carolina in Iceland. How might the courts in England and Wales react to a parent wanting to name their child Uncle Ben? Would they simply respond in the same way as the French courts and remove ‘Uncle’?
In certain foreign jurisdictions such as France or Germany, the state regulates names to meet standardised rules of grammar and gender or to save the child from possible embarrassment. In each case it is the registrar who makes an objection to a name and it is up to the parents to make an application to court if they are not willing to change their desired choice of name.
Luckily, the rules on registering a child’s name in England are amongst the most liberal in the world. Within the UK there are no restrictions on parents, unless a name could be deemed offensive, in which case the registrar could refuse to register the name.
Since 1984 there have been two Supermen, six Gandalfs, twenty-nine Gazzas and thirty-six Arsenals named in England without any restriction.
Registrations of births in England and Wales are made under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 and the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987, neither of which sets out any guidance on what parents may name their child. Advice to registrars from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Department is simply that a name should consist of a sequence of letters and that it should not be offensive. There is also no guidance on what would be considered offensive. Where a registrar has concerns over a name, they are advised to discuss this with the parents and highlight any problems the child may face as they grow up and attempt to get them to reconsider their choice. To date, there has never been an occasion where a registrar has refused to register a name.
It is therefore safe to assume that, unless your chosen name is particularly offensive, you are free to choose the name of your child as you see fit!
Here at David Gray, our experienced team advise and represent parents in all aspects of law relating to arrangements for children. For more information please contact Louise Law on 0191 232 9547.