Mom changed son's name without dad's consent

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

I am a father in a very disheartening situation. The mother of my six-month-old son carried out a name change for him without my consent. It is deeply troubling, especially because the initial name we agreed on is not mentioned at all in his full name. I need to know what I can do to have his original first name added back to his birth certificate. Also, I would like to know whether or not this is totally legal. I've read the entire Registration (Births and Deaths) Act and did not see whether or not this is allowed by law. I love my son unconditionally and his name is part of that unconditional bond.

Thank you for your letter about this unusual action by a parent of a minor child. You say that your son's original first name had been agreed upon by you and your baby's mother. Then you say that this name was changed. This I must admit is somewhat confusing for me. You agreed to the name, but were you there when your son's birth was being reported to the Registrar for the purpose of the registration of his birth? And did you identify yourself as his father, give your full name, address and occupation in the reporting of his birth? If not, who did the reporting? Does your name appear as his father? Was the agreed name actually registered as a part of his name during the reporting of his birth, and was it written on his birth certificate?

Then you confuse me further when you say that you need to know how to have “his original first name added back to his birth certificate”. This says to me that the name had appeared on your son's birth certificate and then was later removed. There is provision in the Registration (Births and Deaths) Act for errors in certificates to be corrected. However, I agree that there is none in the Act to change what was not an error. Such a change would have to be done by a deed poll wherein the change of name would be endorsed on the existing record and certificate.

I find it astounding that the mother would have been able to effect a change of name of your son's birth records and certificate without you being informed if you are registered as his father. If, however, you are not so registered, then only the mother will have the ability to act about any contents of his birth records.

You feel a great loss about what has occurred. Names of children are very important and give them their sense of identity and sense of belonging. You are quite right in saying that the name is a part of the unconditional bond between you, and proof of your love for him. In fact, it is a child's fundamental human right to have his or her identity from the parents.

It is difficult for me to say definitively what you can do about it, because as I have tried to explain, you have not given me clear details of the child's naming — whether it was done after the report of the birth but before the birth certificate was issued, or whether it was done after the certificate was issued.

As you should know, both parents of a child have the equal rights to apply for custody, care and control and access to their child. Whether and what an applying parent is granted depends on a court's decision, which must be based on what is in the best interests of the child.

In order to be assured that you will always be able to play a part in all important decisions throughout your son's years of minority (0 - 18 years), you should apply either in the Family Court or Supreme Court for an order granting you joint custody of your child and specific access to him to enable you to build an actual relationship with him. You can add a claim to your application about the name change and argue for its inclusion. You may or may not succeed with the latter, but courts are there to hear and rectify wrongs done to us. Whether you succeed or not will depend on the law and the principle of the child's best interests. In addition to the provisions of the Act, the Supreme Court also has inherent powers to enable it to act and make orders it considers fair in all the circumstances of the case.

Failing this, you may consider adding the name by a deed poll. To do so, you must have an order of legal custody of your child. So please apply for this and your access to enable you to make decisions concerning your son's welfare.

Good luck, and please continue to be a caring father in every way to your son.

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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