In last night’s episode of Eastenders, the storyline surrounding the daughter of Janine Butcher and Michael Moon took a new twist when Janine threatened to change their daughter’s surname from Moon to Butcher.
Michael responded by telling Janine that she wouldn’t be able to change Scarlett’s surname, to which Janine retorted that she could because she had ‘lots of money’.
This is an interesting plot twist because parents, in a similar situation, often disagree over the surname given to their child, but what would happen in real life? Well, the law is very clear when it comes to changing the surname of a child under the age of 15. “Both parents, having equal legal rights, must agree to the new surname, or a court order must be in place.”
So could Janine apply for a court order? Yes, she could instruct her highly paid lawyer to complete and action form C100 (the form used to make an application under the Children Act for a ‘specific issue order’) but a court will only make an order where it is considered to be in the ‘best interests of the child’.
In fact, there is an implicit bias on the side of the courts not intervening because section 1(5) of the Children Act 1989 reads:
“where a court is considering whether or not to make one or more orders under this Act with respect to a child, it shall not make the order or any of the orders unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all.”
Clearly, Janine’s desire to change Scarlett’s surname is to spite her ex husband (a loving father who plays an active roll in his daughter’s life) so the change in surname from Moon to Butcher would not be considered to be in Scarlett’s best interests.
That is, if it ever went court, which it wouldn’t because a highly paid lawyer would not take on Janine’s case due to the above.
We’ll certainly watch this drama unfold with a keen interest.
If you’re considering changing your child’s name, and need professional legal advice, then you can call 020 3318 0245 to speak to a consultant.