Andrew Paterson: Your name, your choice: it's a matter of declaration

There is no doubt that your name can give you a sense of identity, with some being of the view that your name can even be a reflection of your personality to which you grow into from birth.

Andrew Paterson - Murray Beith Murray
Andrew Paterson - Murray Beith Murray

With the weight that a name holds, how would you go about changing it?

Under Scots law, you are entitled to name yourself anything, so long as this is done without the intention to commit fraud or deception. This new name should be used for all purposes, including your identification documents, such as your passport and driving license.

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A common and widely recognised way of changing your name is by Statutory Declaration. This is simply a document which records your past name and your new name, and declares that you renounce the use of your former name and shall thereafter only use your new name. Statutory Declarations must be signed before a Notary Public (most Solicitors are Notaries Public) or Justice of the Peace. From that moment, you can proceed to use your selected new name.

If you wish to take a further step and record the change of name, you must do so with the Registrar General. This procedure is available to anyone whose birth is registered in Scotland. It can also be used by those who have been registered in Scotland’s adopted children register, gender recognition register or parental register.

To record your name with the Registrar General, you will have to complete an application form which you can find online. The form is fairly straightforward and the end result of this application process is a new Birth Certificate showing your new name.

This can be seen as adding a layer of formality, but it may not always be in your interest to register the name change. This is because all registered name changes are accessible by the general public and could be available, for example, to an abusive ex-partner.

The current cost for registering your name change with the Registrar General is £40. The cost of the first extract Birth Certificate is currently £15.

Although in Scotland you are free to change your name (the above costs notwithstanding), there are limitations on how often you can record a change with the Registrar General. For children under 16, only one change of forename and one change of surname can be recorded. For children under the age of two, they are only permitted to change their forename once.

For adults over 16, they are able to change their forename once but can have three changes of their surname. They must, however, wait at least five years between each change of surname.

Even if you have reached the limit of the name changes you can record with the Registrar General, you are still permitted to change your name again and simply not record it, for example, by using the Statutory Declaration method.

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The process for changing your name in England and Wales is different. If you were born or adopted in England or Wales, you will have to change your name by Deed Poll. This is not necessary for those born or adopted in Scotland.

Many services are available online for changing your name by Deed Poll, together with the appropriate forms. If you want to have supporting evidence of the name change which you have done by Deed Poll, it is helpful to enrol your Deed Poll in the Supreme Court in London.

Andrew Paterson is a Partner with Murray Beith Murray