#Hope Classic

Can a mother change child’s surname?

By Bamidele Kolawole


Legally, it is wrong for a woman to change the name of a child to another man’s own, well, if it happens, it is a pointer to the fact that she is playing infidelity with the other man, then, a DNA test needs to be conducted to know the actual owner of the child but if in favour of the owner of the first name, then, it is fundamentally wrong, actionable and has no right to do that. The Yoruba has an adage that you can snatch the wife of a lazy man but not his child/children.

Olubunmi Akinseye Esq

The identity of every individual is very important, as it is the resultant of the various Biodata indexes which are very peculiar to the individual, does not vary under normal physiological conditions, except as expected it to be by virtue of ageing for individual and it differ from individual to individual.

So, Name as one of the indexes of an individual’s identity, is expected to be permanent once acquired after birth, particularly for Legal and other purposes. Ideally, a child’s name is most often than not arrived at by both Parents, and the child’s birth is expected to be officially registered in that Name as the Christen Name as the case may be.

In our modern world, where and when it is now possible to deviate from either the Patriarch or Matriarch Genealogy patterns of family affiliation, to arrive at parenthood by Hybrid methods, such as visiting Biological Bank to birth a child without the opposite sex, Adoption of a child by a non-Biological single Parent, could possibly spring the surprise of a mother single- handedly changing a child’s existing name.

Even at that, such attempt by the mother must still, pass through the legal procedure, in the least vide an Affidavit, Deposed to by the mother, Declaring the circumstances warranting the change. Even, adoption of a child with existing name cannot deprived the child of the existing known name, there would only be additional names, particularly when the child had already taken to that name for self identification.

If the cruise here is solely on surname of the child, the position would be slightly different, except when there is nobody challenging the decision of the mother, because at that point the child’s PATERNITY will be an issue, that will have to be determined by a competent Court of Law, before such child can take on a new surname.

It is not totally impossible for a mother to attempt changing a child’s name alone, without consulting the supposed father of the child where there is one.

It is the customary practice among the Igbo tribe of Nigeria to give a child her maternal grandfather’s name when the biological father was yet to pay the mother’s bride price, under that condition the child remains with the mother’s family until the father paid up, and should the father walked away, I guess the child will retain that name.

So, from this perspective, it could be possible for a mother to change the child’s surname to the original biological father’s name, but still subject to legal procedure, even the least possible.

I honestly do not know of any law under which a mother can change a child’s name unofficially

Biodun Fasakin Esq

The answer is yes or no, but it can be difficult.

A mother, or father, cannot change a child’s surname by herself or himself unless she or he is the only person with parental responsibility. Even then if the other parent objects, a Court Order should be made. Any child who has sufficient legal understanding may apply in their own right for the Court’s permission to change their name.

Making a decision you have to think about all the implications of changing a child’s name before you go ahead. You need to be sure that such a big step like changing a child’s name is the right thing to do in all the circumstances.

Think about all who will be affected – the child, the father’s feelings if the child stops using his name, and those of grandparents and other relatives.

The child may resent it later in life and want to change thename back again. Building family togetherness does not depend on the use of the same family surname.

Ilemobayo Akinbote Esq

The question as to whether it is right for a mother to change the name of her child to another man’s name is a matter of choice and that depends largely on the age of the child.

A mother can name her child anything but is that with the consent of the child’s biological father? It is almost impossible for a mother to unilaterally take a decision on a child without the input of the father. However, this position is essentially influenced by the cultural background of the people.

Culturally, a child belongs to his father and will generally bear his father’s name. The reason for this is that the male lineage of the father will continue without any dilution and most importantly, for the purpose of filial identification.

From legal point of view, rights are guaranteed under the law to do whatever you like as freedom of choice provided it contravene no law or any legislative enactment. Similarly, under the Child Rights Law, in any case of whatever nature, the welfare and the education of the child is of utmost importance.

I must underscore the fact that, a grown up child is free to choose what is best for him or her and the influence of the mother or father plays little or no significance.

In advanced countries, no importance is attached to names and a child can even be named anything or can be named after anything. So, no culture restricts people from changing a child’s name to that of any man it doesn’t matter the origin of the man to which the child’s name is changed. It is indeed, a matter of choice.

Segun Oni, ESQ

Essentially, the Child’s Right Act defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of eighteen (18) years and it has various rights accrued to him/her not as privileges but as of rights – right to personal interest, this aspects is so crucial and important even in the determination of the custody of a child when parents are separated or divorced, another right is right to education, the issue of education must be removed out of the non – justiciable right to fundamental rights.

However, our technology has advanced that a single mother who never had the opportunity of sleeping with a man may conceive and that is through a process called “artificial insemination” and also a woman may not carry a pregnancy and has a baby through a process known as “surrogate”.

According to the Child’s Act, the biological or the natural parent may have parental responsibility for the child. Sometimes, it is not easy to determine the father of a child; that of mother is most times incontestable but the law presumes that where a child is born to a married woman, the husband will be deemed to be the father until the contrary is proved.

Under the Customary law, a father has exclusive custodian right over the child/ children of the marriage. These rights are not limited to custody alone but also to ownership of the children which is a means of transferring the child/children to his family members which starts by sharing the same surname with the father’s family.

Symbolically, names are meant primarily for identification purpose, others are secondary; viz the purpose of the child, occurrences that surround the birth of the child etc. In actual sense, it is the joint responsibility of both the father and mother to name their child, though the extended families may contribute names but this is not compulsory.

Flowing from the above premix, since the father and mother are jointly involved in the naming of a child, they ought to be jointly involved in the alteration / change of the child’s name except where a father/mother is the only individual that plays parental role in the life of the child; here he/she can unilaterally change the name.

Adoption, becoming a biological father/ mother may necessitate change of name but if one becomes a step father/ mother, you need the consent of the biological father/ and mother of the step child.

Legally, it is wrong for a woman to change the name of a child to another man’s own, well, if it happens, it is a pointer to the fact that she is playing infidelity with the other man, then, a DNA test needs to be conducted to know the actual owner of the child but if in favour of the owner of the first name, then, it is fundamentally wrong, actionable and has no right to do that. The Yoruba has an adage that you can snatch the wife of a lazy man but not his child/children.

Even when courts are made to intervene, the court looks at the interest of the child, well being and happiness. All centers on the child’s best interest.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

This poser revolves round the principle of child adoption, a principle which is universally acceptable and has been domesticated in our legal jurisprudence, particularly, in the Child Rights Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (LFN) 2004.

 Adoption has been described by the Court of Appeal in the case of IBIAM v IBIAM & Anor (2017) LPELR-42028 (CA) as “an act between persons unrelated by blood” The Court proceeded by describing an “Adoptee” as “a person who become the legal child of one or two non-biological parents.

The Court stated further that adoption creates a parent-child relationship between the adopted child and the adoptive parents with all the rights, privileges and responsibility that attach to that relationship, though there may be exceptions. The Court while alluding to “adoption by will” which is one of the variant of adoption stated that the legal effect of such an adoption was to entitle the adopted person to assume the testator’s family name and be regarded as the testator’s child.

Similarly, pursuant to Section 141 (1) (a) of the Child Rights Act, an adoption order has the effect extinguishing all rights, duties, obligations and liabilities, including any other order under the personal law applicable to the parents of the child or any other person in relation to the future custody, maintenance, supervision and education of the child, including all religious rights, right to appoint a guardian and to consent or give notice of dissent to marriage.

Consequently, pursuant to Section 141 (b) of the Child Rights Act, the adopter shall exercise and enforce all rights, duties, obligations and liabilities, in respect of the future custody, maintenance, supervision and education of the child. Furthermore, the adopter shall exercise all rights to appoint a guardian and to consent to give notice of dissent to marriage of the child, as would vest in the adopter as if the child were a natural child of the adopter, and in respect of those matters the child shall stand to the adopter in the relationship of a child born to the adopter.

Also, under section 141 (2), where husband and wife are joint adopters of a child, they shall make orders as to the custody and maintenance of and right of access to the children stand to each other and to the child in the same relationship as they would have stood if the child were their natural child, and in respect of those matters, the child shall stand to them in relationship of a child born to the adopters.

In respect of the devolution of property on the intestacy of the adopter (that is, where the adopter dies without leaving a will), the adopted child shall be entitled to inherit the property as if he is a natural child of the adopter. See section 141 (3) of the Child Rights Act.

The Family Court both at the High Court and Magistrate’s Court level have exclusive jurisdiction to consider and/or deal with application for child adoption. See section 136 and 138 of the Child Rights Act.

There are laid down procedures for child adoption pursuant to section 126 (1) (a) –(e) of the Act. Such application shall be made in the prescribed form and shall be accompanied with marriage certificate or sworn declaration of marriage, where the applicant is a married couple; birth certificate or sworn declaration of age of each applicant; two passport photographs of each applicant; a medical certificate of the fitness of the applicant from a government hospital; and such other documents or requirement as the Court may require.

Furthermore, by virtue of the provisions of section 126 (2), the court shall on receipt of the application order investigation to be conducted by a child development officer; a supervising officer and such order persons as the court may determine to enable access the suitability of the applicant as an adopter and of the child to be adopted.

The court shall pursuant to section 126 (3) have regard to the best interest, welfare, age and understanding of the child. The Court shall also put into consideration the religious upbringing to be given to the child. As provided for under Section 128 of the Act, the Court shall also wary of making such order for adoption where the parents of the child does not consent to the adoption or the child is abandoned neglected or persistently abused, ill-treated, and there are compelling reasons in the interest of the child while he should not be adopted.

As for the qualification of those entitled to adopt a child, the law pursuant to section 129 provides that:

Married couple of 25 years each shall be qualified to adopt; 2. A married person who has obtained the consent of the parent of the child; 3. A single person, who has attained the age of 25 years and other persons found suitable. 

In conclusion, the child adoption which entitles a child to change his/her name to another man’s name as well as to other entitlements and benefits is legal and acceptable in our legal jurisprudence and even universally as codified in the Adoption Act, 1976, the law operative in England, United Kingdom.

Barr Femi Adetula

In Nigeria, a child means a person under the age of eighteen. See S. 277 of the Child’s Right Act, 2003. The law protects the rights, welfare and interest of a child, see Child’s Right Act, 2004. Legally, every child has right to be named. Section 5(1) of the Child Right’s Act, 2003, provides (1) Every child has a right to a name and, accordingly, shall be given a name on his birth or on such other date as is dictated by the culture of his parents or guardian. See sections 277 and 278 (supra).

Culturally, one of the duties of the parents is to give a child a name. For instance, in Yorubaland, naming of a child is often conducted seven (7) days after the birth. Also, both parents have the right to be involved in the naming process. Occasionally, a child’s parents even consult with their parents in naming a child.

In addition, there are instances where a parent or a guardian may need to change a child’s name. Some of these instances, are adoption, religion/culture, simplification etc.

In any of the instances, the consent of the parents is required unless they are late. Therefore, where a child’s name needs to be changed, both the biological parents should be aware and give consent to it.

A mother has no right to change the name of her child to another man’s name without the consent of the child’s biological father.

However, where the other man has legally adopted the child, the name of the child can be changed to the man’s name.

Can a mother change child’s surname?

APC chairmen hail Basiru as National Scribe

Can a mother change child’s surname?

Human Trafficking

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *