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Child Welfare Held To Be Sufficient Grounds To Change Names Of Children

The process of the breakdown of a marriage all too frequently becomes unpleasant due to the resentment the parties feel for each other. These disagreements are additionally fuelled by the complication of financial matters and childcare.

However, in extreme cases, one party’s actions during this process can become so potentially damaging to the welfare of the children that the other party is permitted to take measures to ensure they are protected.

Indeed, this was the case when a woman was given permission to change the surname of her three-year old twin sons after telling a family court judge that they needed protecting from their father’s internet blogging “activities”.

The man, who had not seen the children for over a year after separating from his wife, was embroiled in litigation about what contact he should have with them. Family Court judge Ross Duggan gave his approval to take the protective measures after hearing that the man had ''taken to referring'' to his estranged wife as ''a drug-addicted alcoholic ... who suffered from sexually transmitted diseases''.

The man, who cannot be named, had created a “protest blog” which he updated “virtually daily” and through this had posted a medical report relating to one of his children, had posted ''extensive details'' of litigation issues and had posted his sons' names.

Although this may seem fairly innocuous at first reading, the man has publicised private medical and court documents that were sensitive to on-going litigation in an attempt to incite public support for his ‘cause’. The judge said the man had ''let himself down'' - and said his ''activity'' had been ''severely damaging'' to the welfare of the children. He concluded that allowing the woman to change the children’s name was “necessary and proportionate”.

In situations where emotions are flared due to life altering legal decisions it is important that you receive advice from a legal professional, who is able to make an impartial and experienced assessment of the situation. This advice will hopefully avoid a party from making mistakes that will harm their position within the court and consequently affect their relationships with others beyond the courtroom.

In the Preston Family Court, Judge Duggan held that the protection of the children from the father’s actions outweighed the desirable preservation of a symbol of a paternal link through the surname. The primary goal throughout family court proceedings is the preservation of the welfare of the children and this ruling appears to be progressive in putting this at the forefront of the process.

Indeed, the judge concluded by stating: 'It seems I cannot realistically stop the father's activities at source but I can stop the harmful consequences, which are, of course, associated with the identification of this material alongside the names of the children. In this context, in the children's best interests, it is necessary and proportionate to allow their change of name.'

When taking actions involving a family law dispute it is important to ask yourself: is this appropriate given the circumstances and gravity of the situation? If in any doubt, a legal adviser is able to offer experienced guidance to your individual circumstances.

Child Support and Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Our family law experts can help with any matter relating to children following the breakdown of a relationship. Whether you are looking for help with contact or support, we can help you explore all the options, either through mediation, negotiation, collaboration or, if necessary, through the courts. For sensitive, professional and understanding legal advice and assistance on any child matter, please contact our family lawyers for a quick response by making an online enquiry.


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