People may need to change their names in the course of their life time. This could be due to various reasons, among them:-
• Upon separation, women who wish to be known by their maiden name.
• People who have been using a different name from their birth name and who want to formalise their name change so that all their official documents and records show the name they have been using.
• Unmarried mothers, whose children were registered with the father’s surname and wish for their children to have their surname following the breakdown of the relationship with the father.
• People who don’t like their name because it is embarrassing.
• Upon marriage for a bride who takes her husband’s surname and wants to make their maiden name a middle name.
Parents may also desire to change the names of their children, for various reasons as well. Most people are however unaware that changing of names is possible. Many of them believe that once a name has been given, it is there to stay.
Change of names can be effected through the use of a Deed Poll. A deed poll is a legal document binding only to a single person or several persons acting jointly to express an active intention.
With a deed poll, you can change your forenames and/or surname, add names, remove names or rearrange your existing names.
You can change your name at any time and for any reason provided it is not to deceive or defraud or to avoid an obligation.
The law governing the use of deed polls In Kenya is the Registration of Documents Act, and the change of names regulations set out in the act.
For one to be able to change their names using a deed poll, they must be at least 16 years of age. A 16-year-old is however is still a minor, and therefore, all that is required of them is consent, in the presence of an advocate, but the entire process is commenced by an adult.
For a minor below 16 years of age, no consent is required from them, as they are still of tender age. For the change of name for a minor, the application has to be made by a person with parental responsibility, most probably a parent.
Where there are two parents, all parents have to consent to the application for the change of name. If a married person makes an application for a change of name, then their spouse has to give consent to the proposed change of name.
For a separated person, a certificate from an advocate that s/he is living separate from their spouse is required. If the applicant is divorced then their certificate of marriage or evidence of marriage together with decree absolute or certificate of divorce will be required, to facilitate the change of name.
Once all the legal requirements have been concluded, the applicant registers the deed poll at the Principal Registry in Nairobi or the Coast Registry for Coast province only.
The registrar shall after registration, cause the deed poll to be advertised in the Kenya Gazette. This acts as a notification to the general public of the change of name. A fee of Sh 500 is payable for the deed poll presented for registration.
The registrar may refuse to accept a change of name, if the change:-
• include at least one forename and one surname;
• is impossible to pronounce;
• includes numbers or symbols
• includes punctuation marks
• is vulgar, offensive or blasphemous;
• promotes criminal activities;
• promotes racial or religious hatred;
• promotes the use of controlled drugs
• ridicules people, groups, government departments, companies or organisations;
• may result in others believing you have a conferred or inherited honour, title, rank or academic award, for example, a change of first name to sir, lord, laird, lady, prince, princess, viscount, baron, baroness, general, captain, professor or doctor.
A successful registration entitles the applicant to be referred to, and use the new names in his/her every day business.