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There are several options if an adult wishes to change their name. This may be a decision made in relation to a change in family circumstances, such as upon marriage or entering into a civil partnership, or upon divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, or simply a personal choice.
A person’s legal name is either the name on their birth certificate, or the name that has been legally adopted following a marriage or civil partnership, or by enrolling a deed poll. A person can have a “known as” name different from their legal one. This would mean that your legal name is used on official documentation (such as qualifications and medical records) but on informal documentation and in day-to-day life the name to be used is your “known as” name.
When you marry or enter into a civil partnership, you may wish to keep your original surname, to adopt the surname of your partner, or to use a double-barrelled combination of your name and your partner’s. You have no obligation to choose to change your surname, but if you do there is no time limit on this. You do not need a deed poll to change your name after marriage or civil partnership, just send a copy of your marriage or civil partnership certificate to the relevant authorities. You should check with each organisation whether they require the original document(s) or will accept copies or certified copies.
If you wish to “mesh” your and your partner’s name, to pick a new marital surname that you and your partner will each have, or to take your partner’s name as your new surname but keep your original name as your middle name, you will need to change your name by deed poll.
When a marriage or civil partnership is dissolved, you may wish to keep your married name or revert back to your maiden name. If you took your partner’s name upon marriage or civil partnership, just send copies of your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your final divorce/dissolution order, a document (such as a payslip or utility bill showing that you are using your maiden name) and a signed statement confirming you have reverted to using a previous surname for all purposes. There is no time limit after divorce or dissolution to do this. You should check with each organisation whether they require the original document(s) or will accept copies or certified copies.
If you wish to officially revert to your maiden name before the divorce or dissolution is finalised, or to change to a surname that you have not legally used previously, you will need to change your name by deed poll.
The register of births is a historic record containing the facts of a child’s birth as they were at the time of the registration. Although there are very limited circumstances in which information on the birth register can be changed, such as for the correction of errors made at the time of original registration, it is extremely unlikely that an adult would meet the criteria for this.
Birth certificates are reissued upon successful application for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), showing a person’s new name and acquired gender. Applicants for a GRC must be 18 years old or over. The issue of a new birth certificate means that your name (and gender) has been legally changed and will provide evidence to organisations to change the information they hold on file and reissue key documentation.
You can change your name by deed poll (see below) prior to the issue of a GRC, which is often an important part of evidencing that you are living in your new gender prior to application for a GRC. The deed poll in your new name will allow you to change the name on all of your official documents. Any organisation that will not accept a change of name supported by a sealed enrolled deed poll without sight of a GRC is breaking equality laws.
Once you have received your sealed deed poll from the court you can start to apply for your name to be changed at various organisations. Some organisations will require sight of the original document and you will need to check each organisation’s stance on this; some, for example, may accept a copy of a passport or driving licence in your new name and not need sight of your deed poll. It is worth considering obtaining several certified copies of your deed poll (which can be done for a small charge by the Post Office, or by solicitors) so that you can make a number of concurrent applications rather than having to wait for your original deed poll to be returned by one organisation before you can apply to another.