Mom in a pickle over baby's name

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

My boyfriend and I have been together for a while and we have a child together. At some point in our relationship we were having issues and we both decided to stray and by doing so, I ended up pregnant. He knew of the affair and agreed that he would take this child as his own, giving it his surname so both children would have the same name. I gave birth and gave the baby my name, but realised that there was an error with the spelling after signing, and did a Certificate of Naming to make the correction, and also added his surname at that point. When I got home from the hospital, my boyfriend decided that he no longer wanted the baby to have his surname. The baby does not have an official birth certificate as yet.

The Registrar General's Department (RGD) told me that I have to go to court to change back the name, even though the name is not of the biological father. I went to the court's office thinking it was a simple matter, and was told that a DNA test is required at a cost of $50,000. I know that my boyfriend is not the father, and to me that would be a waste of money. Can I do a deed poll to change the baby's name without having an official birth certificate yet?

My boyfriend did not sign anything and no particulars for the father were added to the birth records . The RGD is saying the name cannot be changed again and has to go through the court even though I made queries just a week after initially signing. Is there no way court can be avoided because in addition to the wait time for court, it is really hard to find that amount of money when we know for a fact that he is not the father.

I understand that you and your boyfriend, in the course of your pregnancy, agreed that after your confinement, the child would bear his surname. You both, however, instead of seeking advice about how this could be done legally, decided on a path that meant that you gave false information in your report of the birth, and by your boyfriend agreeing, he was also complicit in the unlawful supply of false information.

It is not clear what spelling error occurred after you had given the child your name in your report of the birth to the registrar at the hospital. I am not sure why that typographical error was not corrected by the registrar, and why you had to do a Certificate of Naming to make the correction, as that was a clerical error. The registrar can correct clerical errors in office.

You then, in this Certificate of Naming, added your boyfriend's surname. This was unlawful because you well knew that he was not the father of your child.

You say that your baby does not have an official birth certificate as yet, but you have not stated why this is so. Is it because of a delay in the process at the RGD, or is it because of your efforts to have your boyfriend's name inserted in the baby's birth records and birth certificate, which has held up the process of the official birth certificate being issued?

You add that you were informed that you had to obtain a court order in order to change your baby's name back — but to what? You did not seem to even consider whether what you were planning to do was legal or not. This is very serious! You would have committed the offence of knowingly giving false information to the Registrar of Births, but then you considered compounding your action by filing an application to a court based on these false statements.

The short answer to your question about the deed poll is no. In fact you cannot do a deed poll and record it if you have no legal birth certificate in Jamaica, showing that you were born and your birth was registered in Jamaica. As it is, your baby has no official name and has no official certificate to prove that the birth of this particular child was duly reported and registered. You really must be more responsible!

You are, presently, in fact denying your child its fundamental human right, recognised in international, regional and national human rights laws. Your child is entitled to have a valid birth certificate and you must ensure that this is issued.

You cannot get a deed poll if you have no birth certificate, and anyway, the baby is too young for it to be contemplated. Also, I am not sure that your boyfriend's name is or will be on the birth certificate when it is issued, because the legal processes which must be taken before his name is inserted have not been done.

You see, the registrar has to act according to the provisions of the law, and when an unmarried woman names a man as the father of her child, he can only be so registered after the registrar sends him notice of his having been named as such and for him to consent or not; or he makes a declaration that he is; or he attends in person and so declares; or a court so orders after receipt of a DNA test result that he is the father. None of these have happened. In your case, the DNA test from the court would fail to designate him as the father, and your attempt to have him registered would be dismissed.

In my view, what your boyfriend should do is apply to adopt your child. First, you must inform the biological father and obtain his agreement for your boyfriend to adopt his child. If he agrees, then your boyfriend and you should contact the Child Protection and Family Services Agency to commence the adoption process. It is all free of any charges, save for the cost of obtaining copies of certificates and of other necessary documents. Once he fills and submits the Pre-Adoption Form and he is approved for processing, then a Children's Officer would be assigned to deal with the processing of his application until its completion. Your baby, after the successful end of the application, would legally be entitled to use his name which would then be inserted on his/her birth certificate as the legal father. Your boyfriend would then in law be your baby's legal father, though not the biological father, who upon the adoption, would assume all the rights and obligations of the biological father.

I hope that I have assisted you sufficiently so that you can successfully proceed and obtain your child's birth certificate. Do not deprive your child of such a fundamental right by acting outside the law to obtain the name that you wish him to have.

All the very best.

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; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.


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.

Margarette Macaulay

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