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Elon Musk’s baby name: What are the rules and can you change your name?

If you have made a decision you subsequently regret to call your baby North West, Apple Martin or, most bizarrely of all, Elon Musk’s ‘X AE A – 12’ (which even his parents can’t seem to agree on how to pronounce), you can change it to something less creative like Catherine or William.

What are the rules on names?

For the royalists, if you live in Portugal most of the first names of the Royal Family are prohibited in law.

In England, we have few rules against what you can and can’t call a baby. If the name proposed includes obscenities or numbers then it is likely to be rejected by the Registrar. ‘Hitler Smith’ or ‘God Jackson’ are therefore not likely to be accepted, indeed Hitler seems more or less universally prohibited across most countries.

Denmark has rules against including names with certain consonants such as 'C' as there is no pronunciation of 'C' in the Danish language. New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs publishes a list of attempts made to use names that are unreasonable and likely to cause offence, including  ‘Messiah’, ‘God’, ‘Mafia No Fear’, ‘Justice’, ‘V2’ and ‘Queen Victoria’.

USA has laws for each state but a general principle underpins the freedom of speech doctrine and there are few rules. If you can’t make up your mind in Florida the state will choose a name for you and in Kentucky, if you have spent your life with a surname of Willy or Smellie that you would prefer to avoid, you can choose a different surname for your baby, which has its advantages!

How can you change your name?

Some people change their names because they are transgender or transsexual, others because they want no association with a name eg someone in the family has committed a crime which has some stigma attached to it. People may also change their name because they want a fresh start or want to revert to a maiden name.

Whatever the reason, there are two ways to go about this:

  • Statutory declaration: Most banks, building societies and the Passport Agency will accept a deed of change of name (a statutory declaration) which is a document prepared and witnessed by a solicitor. You’ll be asked to confirm what you were called and what you want to be called, and your signature will be witnessed. You can go through this process on the behalf of a child, but you must have the consent of everyone who has parental responsibility for that child.
  • Royal Courts of Justice: You can register a change of name with the Royal Courts of Justice so that it is then held on official records. This includes not only the statutory declaration/change of name deed, but an application to the Royal Courts of Justice and payment of a fee of £36.00. 

Changing a name, whether it’s a first name, surname or both, is a relatively common occurrence. Emsleys Solicitors’ experienced team of solicitors can guide you through the steps and advise on the documents needed at a low-cost fixed fee. For confidential advice, please call 0113 201 4900 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk.

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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