LEGAL AID: I want my wife's child to bear my name

Wednesday December 04 2019

Your action may be resisted by both the biological father and the child. This means you require consent. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP



I am David Kariuki and I happened to marry a wife with one child. The child's birth certificate bears the name of her biological dad.

Can I change the dad's name to mine now that I have taken full responsibility of bringing up the child?

Does the law of Kenya allow that?

Dear David,

David you raise two fundamental concepts that inform each other in dispute resolution: dialogue and law. However, let us first congratulate you. Your commitment as a parent to protect the interest of the child is commendable.


You demonstrate the importance of effective parenting as well as good parent-child relationship. Your intention therefore to change name is likely motivated by the many challenges you anticipate the kid to face in future, that may be legal, social, cultural or economic.

Nonetheless, your action may be resisted by both the biological father and the child. This means you require consent.

Your wife’s opinion in this matter should be considered. Therefore, right from start you require to hold dialogue including all the parties especially the mother, child, biological father and yourself.

Should you lack consensus on this issue, please brace yourself for a likely court battle.

Nevertheless, the law allows for name change in the following terms

Option 1: The law allows you as a parent or legal guardian to make an application to the registrar of births and deaths to change the child’s name, provided two years have not elapsed from the date of the initial registration.

Option 2: If at all two years have lapsed, Registration of Documents or Change of Names Regulations allows you to make an application known as “deed poll” for minors. This legal document enables name change, though contents vary depending on the person making the application.

For instance, where the minor involved is below the age of sixteen, Form 4 A is completed.  We are inclined to believe you fall under this category. 

Together with your wife, you will be required to complete the deed poll, indicate the old name that is being replaced and the new one. You shall then proceed to sign off the document as parents and your signatures attested thereto by one witness.

The process is a statutory obligation, and as such, calls for the change of name to be published in the Kenya Gazette to facilitate official use of the new name. Afterward, an application for another birth certificate bearing the new name will be made to the registrar of births and deaths.

We strongly recommend you include the child in the discussions, the age notwithstanding.