Parental responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child. A person who has parental responsibility for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing, which includes a right to name their child as they so choose. Such a decision however is exactly that – a responsibility and that child obviously has to carry that name through to adulthood.
In some European countries, there are regulations in place preventing parents from using certain names for their children, however in the Courts of England and Wales, the Court’s powers will only be exercised in the most extreme cases.
In the recent case of C (Children) 2016 EWCA Civ 364, the Court of Appeal were required to determine whether to exercise powers to prevent a mother from registering her twins with the names “Cyanide” and “Preacher”.
Initially, the Court made an injunction to stop the mother from registering the children with such names and the mother appealed. The Court of Appeal stated that they did have the power to prevent a parent giving their child a specific name, but that it should only be used in extreme cases and by a High Court Judge.
The Court of Appeal decided that the name “Cyanide” was enough to believe that the child would be likely to suffer significant emotional harm. The Judge stated that “it is not unusual for a child to ask how his or her name was chosen” and that the child would have to “come to terms with the fact that she was named after a notorious poison, whilst her twin brother was to be given the name of a respected member of society, ‘Preacher'”. The mother was not allowed to name either of the children with her chosen names.
Many parents believe that it is their “right” to name their child whatever they choose – but maybe they should think more carefully about the “responsibility” involved and the consequences for the child.
If you need legal advice in relation to children matters, or indeed in relation to any aspect of family law, please contact us to speak to one of our family law solicitors.