Legal Clinic: My child's dad gave nod to name change in birth certificate

I informed the father of my child that I wanted to change the name on the birth certificate and he said he had no problem with that.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

What you need to know:

  • If this child is below six months, then the name change can be treated as the first registration and requires no legal or administrative caution.
  • However, after the expiry of six months since birth, as stated in Section 8 of the Birth and Death Registration Act, Registrar’s written authorisation is required for such change of name once the prescribed fee is paid.
  • A child’s name can be changed by a guardian or parent if it is within two years since birth.

Hello Eric,
I informed the father of my child that I wanted to change the name on the birth certificate and he said he had no problem with that. What steps should I follow now that I have his consent? Martha


Hi Martha,
You inform readers that the other person whose name appears on the birth certificate has no reservations if you changed the child’s name. We then assume you seek to remove the name of this person from the said birth certificate. You are two steps ahead since Article 53 (1-e) of the Kenyan Constitution calls for equal parental responsibility, and this includes consensus while naming a child. Your statement invites us to register a key principle demanded by the Constitution on matters regarding children. Article 53 (2) of this Constitution directs everyone, state and non-state actors as well as individual members of the community alongside parents to always consider, promote, protect, and consistently pursue the best interest of children when making and actioning decisions of their welfare. This is a constitutionally enshrined right to ensure children have a quality life despite the circumstances within which they reside. 
We cannot tell the age of your child. We, therefore, share comprehensive information regarding such changes. If this child is below six months, then the name change can be treated as the first registration and requires no legal or administrative caution. However, after the expiry of six months since birth, as stated in Section 8 of the Birth and Death Registration Act, Registrar’s written authorisation is required for such change of name once the prescribed fee is paid. A child’s name can be changed by a guardian or parent if it is within two years since birth. Section 14 of the statute of births, requires that parents or guardians who desire to alter the name of their child provide evidence to the registrar indicating why such alteration, and upon acceptance, pay the prescribed fee. This is permissible where the birth of a child has been registered before receiving a name or where the name by which it was registered is altered. 

The other way 
The other way of altering a child’s name, especially after the expiry of two years of birth or first registration is through the application of a Deed Poll, officially referred to as Deed of Change of Name. Besides being a declaration of intention to change the name, a Deed Poll, allows one to get all records and documents changed to the new preferred name. This process is directed to the Registrar of Documents. It should be noted that this process has other attendant actions which authenticate it. First, if the child in the picture is above 16 years, then their consent is mandatory for one to commence and effect such name change, whether parent or not. Second, the applicant in this case you must fill and sign Form 4 A, and the signature must be witnessed by another person, preferably an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Third, the Registrar of documents must be convinced that the proposed alteration does not result in a name that is offensive, difficult to pronounce may be due to the presence of symbols, punctuation marks and numbers in it or if such name as appears altered provides a false impression of the acquired title like a professor, Doctor, Princess, King, Queen or Prince. Further, if the said change promotes criminality, religious intolerance, discrimination of any nature or seen to do so, then the Registrar would have grounds to reject the proposed name. Should the registrar agree and accept the change, especially when the intention is not to cause fraud or avoid obligation one is required to pay a prescribed fee, to allow a 30-day gazettement of the name for any contention to be addressed. It is only after the Deed poll has been successfully registered that one commences the acquisition of a new birth certificate, and so the use of the preferred name. 
Even as we offer you information as to how name change is done, there are a few implications that must be spoken about. Changing a child’s name in the spirit of their best interest requires us to think of family heritage, succession, and inheritance. This is important since such change, despite the availability of DNA testing could indicate quasi-legal separation of a child from either parent. Its strategically right, and emotionally sensitive to protect the child from any future confusion, possibilities of disinheritance and events that proffer doubtful identity. Having said that, let readers know that naming or renaming a child provides ground for their legal recognition in the eyes of the state. 
Mr Mukoya is a lawyer with over 17 years of experience. He’s the Executive Director of Legal Resources Foundation. Legal query? E-mail [email protected]

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