This article provides a how-to guide to registering a birth in the UK, including details on where to register a birth, how long you have to do it and what you need with you.
Before you know it, it will be time to register the birth of your baby. This article covers the following aspects of how to register a birth:
When do I need to register the birth?
Where do I register a birth?
Who can register the birth?
Registering an adopted child
Registering a baby conceived after fertility treatment or surrogacy
What is a secondary informant?
Choosing a name for your baby
What details do I need to register the birth?
What do I receive after I register the birth?
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it is a legal requirement to register a birth within 42 days.
In Scotland, it is a legal requirement to register a birth within 21 days.
Your baby must be registered in the district where you gave birth. If your baby was born in hospital, this may have been done before you left. Otherwise, it will require a personal visit to the registrar’s office.
A birth that takes place in England can only be registered in English, but children born in Wales may be registered bilingually in English and Welsh.
It is expected that either or both of the parents will register their child’s birth. If the parents of the child are married then either mum or dad can provide the information to the registrar who will register that the child was born. However, if they are not married:
- Mum will provide all the required information to the registrar, even if she is younger than 16 years.
- Dad can provide the information, but only if he has the agreement of mum. This agreement must be given by signing a declaration (Form DPM) and dad must also sign a declaration (Form 27).
- Since 2006, if an unmarried dad jointly registers the birth of a child with its mum, he will automatically acquire parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008 ensured that civil partners experience the same rights as married couples and same-sex couples, not in a civil partnership, in line with unmarried couples.
- Same-sex couples who conceived on or after 06 April 2009 can now name both partners on their child’s birth certificate when registering the birth of their child.
- Since 1 September 2009, if a woman has a child by donor insemination or fertility treatment, was in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment, and her civil partner is the child’s legal parent, either woman can register that the baby has been born on her own.
If the women are not civil partners:
- The mother can register the birth alone, but her female partner can only register it in certain circumstances.
- If the mother’s partner registers the child has been born, jointly with the mother, she will ensure that she has parental responsibilities and rights towards the child.
When the baby is born it will be registered just like any other child, with the name of its birth mother and, if available, birth father. However, if the child is to be adopted, after the appropriate court order has been received by the General Registrar, an updated registration will be made, that will include the details of the adoptive parents. This certificate will be linked to the original one which will be held in a confidential index, accessible by the child in question once they’ve reached the age of 18.
The woman who has the baby, including a surrogate mother, is recorded as the child's mother. The man regarded as the father will usually be the husband or partner who received treatment with the mother.
In the case of a surrogacy arrangement, the ‘commissioning parents’ – the couple who arranged for the surrogate mother to carry a child for them - can apply to the courts for a Parental Order that allows them to re-register the birth and be named as the child’s parents. You should seek legal advice if you wish to apply for a Parental Order.
On issuing a Parental Order, the court notifies the General Register Office automatically, who re-register the birth. This new record will supersede the original.
If neither mum, dad or either partner in same-sex couples are able to register the birth, a ‘secondary informant’ may do so on their behalf. Although no further documentation is required of these people, they will be expected to provide a compelling reason as to why they, rather than the child’s parents, are registering that the baby has been born. Accepted secondary informants include:
- Someone in permanent residence in the place where the child was born.
- Someone who was present when the child was born.
- Someone who has charge of the child.
Naming your baby can be quite a daunting task as this will stay with them for life. Unlike some countries which hold lists of appropriate names, the UK allows you to name your baby whatever you choose. There are many sites which can help you find a name you like. When officially registering and legally naming the baby, mums have overall choice. Whether or not they are married to their partner, dads are unable to insist on any part of the name at all.
If you cannot decide on a name for your baby within the specified time of 42 days in England and Wales, then you must still register the birth but the name will be left blank. You have up to one year from the date of registration to decide on a name and enter it on the register.
In Scotland, if you cannot think of a name for your baby within 21 days, it can be recorded subsequently, if the parents apply for a change of name for the child. This will cost £40.
Northern Ireland allows parents to change the name of their child up until the child is two years old.
There may be slight variations within England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; but as a general rule you should take the following information with you when you visit the registrar's office:
- The card issued by the hospital
- Your marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Mum’s address and maiden name
- Full name of the baby
- Sex and the date your baby was born
- District and place of birth of the baby
- Full names, dates of birth, full address(es) and occupations of the parents
If you don't have any of these, the registrar can still register that your child has been born.
Each region will provide a shortened version of the registry certificate for free. If you wish to have a copy of the full version then costs are:
- England and Wales - £4 if purchased at the time of registration, £10 thereafter.
- Scotland - £10 if purchased within a month of registration, £15 thereafter.
- Northern Ireland - £8 if purchased at the time of registration, £14 thereafter.
You will receive a short birth certificate and a registration card that you will need to complete and take to your local GP's surgery. You won't be able to register your child with a doctor without this registration card.
When you register your baby, the registrar will either give you an application form to apply for a full birth certificate or you can get one there and then. If you do not get one at the time you register the birth, you will need to complete the application form and send it off with a cheque to cover the cost of the certificate. You should receive the full birth certificate within two weeks. You will need the full certificate for a number of reasons, including applying for child benefit.
The General Register for Scotland has information on registering births in Scotland.
For information on registering a birth in Northern Ireland go to NIdirect.
Stonewall the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity has information on the issues affecting same-sex couples.