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  • Writer's picturePenn Chambers

Family Law | Is Your Child’s Name A Form Of Child Abuse?

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

I recently read an article about a couple who were due to have a child… the mother suggested a name for the child… the father said he agreed, but only jokingly, thinking that it was a joke… the mother was not joking.

The woman decided to name the child Gaylord, which sparked arguments from the father and his family who argued that the baby’s name was paramount to child abuse.

The baby’s name tore a family apart, rather than bringing them closer together.

The mother has said:

“I’m well aware it’s a stigmatised name today, so that’s why I have agreed to use a short form. The name is Gaylord. I get it, trust me, I know most people hate it. That is why I’ve been able to discuss with my parents and grandparents that he will go by Gail in daily life so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”

But surely people will still know the child’s full name?

The mother has also said:

“They [her in-laws] gave me a list of approved names like I’m a child, which is incredibly offensive to me. They have no right to name my own baby for me.”

Whilst I agree that the in-laws should not be naming the child and this should be up to the parents – should the parents now take into account how that child’s life will be with that particular name?

Even if this was a popular names centuries ago, does that necessarily mean that it is suitable for modern times?

• C (Children [2016] EWCA CIV364)

The above case involved the Court has to determine whether there was a power in the jurisdiction of England and Wales to prevent a parent who has parental receptibility from registering a child with a forename of their choice and, if not, how the Court should exercise their power to prevent that parent from registering that particular name.

The mother wanted to call her children Cyanide and Preacher.

It is no doubt worthy of note that the mother had a long-standing diagnosis of mental illness and her parenting skills were impaired further by drug misuse.

In the first instance, the Judge declared that the local authority were permitted to stop the mother from exercising her parental responsibility in such a way that she would not be able to register the children’s forenames of Cyanide and Preacher.

When the matter was appealed, Lady Justice King stated that she also came to the conclusion that there is a small category of matters where the Court ought to be able to intervene to curtail the parental reasonability of a parent where the impact of that is so profound and will have a significant impact on the child that it would be right to do so, despite Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (which relates to the right to family life without inappropriate inference by the State).

• Are Celebrities Any Different?

If we look at it from another perspective – what does this say about celebrities who name their children?

Michael Jackson named his child Blanket. Jason Lee named his child Pilot Inspektor. Frank Zappa named his child Moon Unit. John Mellencamp named his child Speck Wilehorse. Gwen Stefani named her child Zuma Nesta Rock. Bob Geldof named his child Fifi Trixibell. Most recently, Elon Musk named his child X Æ A-12.

Would you name your children by any of these names? I particularly would not.

Whilst the parents may just want to be trendy, should it be right that the Court be allowed to intervene if the child’s life will be significantly and gravely impacted? Should parents take into account how the child’s name will affect the child’s life, especially during the school years where bullying takes place and the child may be subject to taunts and jibes?

What are your thoughts? Are there different rules between non-celebs and celebrities?

The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal advice on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor before you embark on any course of action.

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