Parents' right to name their baby

02 July 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 7

Choosing a name for a newborn is something that many parents take great time and care over, and there is a vast library of baby-name books available for parents to consult. Midwives must be aware that, from the law's point of view, a parent with parental responsibility under the Children Act 1989, section 2 can select and register a forename of their choosing for their baby even if it is considered unusual, bizarre or foolish. Parental responsibility is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority which by law a parent of a baby has in relation to the baby and their property (Children Act 1989, section 2). These are not specified in the Act but, in essence, it empowers a person to make most decisions in the baby's life, including giving the child a name and registering the baby's birth.

There is a legal duty on a person with parental responsibility to register a child's birth under the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, section 2. The entry is an historical record of the facts relating to the baby at the time of their birth and includes the baby's forename(s) and surname. In England and Wales, parents who have been unable to decide on a forename or change their mind about the forename of their baby during the first 12 months after birth can have that name altered on the birth certificate in a fairly straightforward procedure under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, section 13. A change in forename does not result in the original name being erased; instead, a line is put through it and it is replaced by the substituted name.

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