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What's in a name?

View profile for Nick Ingrey
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The Court of Appeal has confirmed that, in exceptional circumstances, the Court has the jurisdiction to prevent a parent with parental responsibility of children from registering them with the forenames of his or her choice. In giving judgment in Re C (children) [2016] EWCA Civ 374, Lady Justice King held that where a local authority believes that a forename chosen by a parent, and by which they intend to register a child, goes beyond the unusual, bizarre, extreme or plain foolish, and instead gives the local authority reasonable cause to believe that by calling him or her that name he or she is likely to be caused significant harm, it can put the matter before the High Court by way of an application to invoke its inherent jurisdiction.

It is, however, clear from the ruling that such jurisdiction will only be used in exceptional or rare circumstances, where the consequences of the exercise of a particular act of parental responsibility are so profound and have such an impact on either the child itself and/or the Article 8 rights (Article 8 ECHR: Right to respect for private and family life) of those who share parental responsibility with a local authority, that the matter must come before the Court for its consideration and determination.

This very sad case involved a mother with serious mental heath issues who wished to exercise her parental responsibility over her new born twins – who, together with her other children, were taken in to foster care - by registering the children’s births using the forenames “Preacher” and “Cyanide”. The Court, whilst expressing the view that “Preacher” in itself might not be an objectionable name, there were, it was held, in this particular case, special circumstances to justify each of the twins being known by different forenames.

It would, nevertheless, appear to be perfectly acceptable for parents to name their children, North West, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Bronx Mowgli or Elsie Otter. What the High Court would have made of the parents in the Shel Silverstein written song, made famous by Johnny Cash, who named their son, Sue, is a matter of debate!

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the family law team to discuss matters. Alternatively, e-mail nickingrey@roythornes.co.uk.