Mom wants to change son's surname

All Woman

DEAR MRS MACAULAY,

I am a new mom and I am very curious as it relates to a child having both parents' surname as I'd like to do a deed poll and also add my name on my son's birth paper. His father didn't sign his birth paper, neither does he help with him in any way. I've been thinking about it and I feel as though it is something I want to do and I believe in it being done.

I understand your wish to have your surname added to your child's registered names, especially in the circumstances you and your child find yourselves, of the father who did not, after the birth, have enough interest to attend to give his full details and particulars and sign his declaration as his son's father. You also said that he has not and is not assisting in any way with his support and development.

There is no legal reason why your child cannot have both parents' surnames. It is really up to you or if some other person reported the birth to the registrar at the hospital, to relate the child's name at that time or state that this will be done later. The practice of a child receiving the father's surname was the rule for eons because men, as they had all the political, social and financial powers, had copted this right to themselves. The practice is that if only forenames are given for the newborn child, that child is automatically called by his or her father's surname; except when no father is named in the records of the child's birth and thereafter.

It seems from what you said that your son's birth has already been registered. If so, and 12 months have not yet passed since the registration, you can go to the registrar who recorded the particulars of your son's birth, and if he or she still has the same register book with the counterfoil of the registration, you can get and deliver a certificate of name change to the registrar, and pay the requisite fee to have his names altered to what wish them to be. The registrar can then, without erasing what was there originally, enter the names in the certificate on the counterfoil and then enter the fact of the entry on the certificate and send it to the Registrar General's Department (RGD), which will then do the necessaries to ensure that all the records have the altered names recorded. If the original book is not available, then the Registrar General, when the child's birth has already been indexed, without erasing anything, would cause the index book to be altered accordingly.

So this is one way of achieving what you wish. Or you can, if your son is not yet baptised/christened, have this done with the full names you want for him. The law also requires the minister who does the baptism/christening to deliver a certificate in the prescribed form of the names given in the baptism/christening, within two days of it being demanded, to the RGD.

If 12 months have passed since your son's registration of birth, you can apply for the Registrar General's written authority to alter his names. The law — the Registration (Births and Deaths) Act — also provides that after the 12 months have elapsed, the names can only be altered upon the written authority of the Registrar General. So you can apply for this written authority, which can be granted by the Registrar General as your son is not yet 10 years old. The section makes clear that after the child is 10 years old the authority shall not be given, unless the Registrar General is satisfied by evidence that there were/are good and sufficient reasons why there was the delay. Once you have the Registrar General's written authority for the alteration of your son's name by the addition of your surname to his now names, the RGD's office will process the alteration as the Act demands. If you choose this route, you still have time, as you said you are a new mom, before your son reaches 10 years of age. I would suggest that you do not wait but go ahead and seek to get your wish realised.

You do not have to proceed with a deed poll alteration for a very minor child's change of name. I personally know of children who have both their mother's and father's surnames, plus their forenames. You have the right to decide what your child's names should be. It is a pity that you did not do so following his birth when reporting his birth and the particulars for the registration of his birth. It would have been neater; it can, however, be done.

If I may, I feel very strongly that as you are a new mom and have no support from your son's father, I must advise you to apply at the Family Court of your parish for sole custody, care and control of your child now. You do not wish to leave your situation about your right to make decisions about your child's life and development open to interference from a disinterested father. Only an order of the court can protect you and your child from this possibility and give you the peace of the certainty of your position. You can also at the same time make an application for the father to contribute to his child's maintenance and have access. You should really move on all these as they are in the very best interests of your son.

I do hope you do what is necessary to have your son's names include your surname. Every mother can do this if she wishes; there is no law which forbids this. Please also do the applications for sole legal custody and care and control and maintenance in the best interests of your son.

All the very best to you and your son and I hope you both have a wonderful life together and a healthy, safe, peaceful, prosperous and truly happy new year.

I also wish all my readers the same, and my editor and the staff of the Jamaica Observer, and of All Woman, a really healthy and virus-free new year and into the future.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.

DISCLAIMER:

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

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