What’s in a name? The trouble with having a different surname to your kids

If you have a different surname to your children, you will already be well acquainted with the need to constantly correct the regular assumptions made by everyone, ranging from your doctor to your child’s daycare centre. But have you ever been accused of child abduction? 

Questioned for child abduction

Hannah Marshall from Wigan in England, was travelling home from Denmark recently with her daughter Lilly when they were stopped by border control.

“They looked at both mine and my daughter’s passports then asked me how I knew the little girl. When I said it was my daughter, they asked why I did not have the same last name,” she said. Fortunately Hannah’s partner was also travelling with them at the time.

“They told us that my partner should have taken her through passport control because I would need to prove she was my daughter. They checked my partner’s passport to prove she held the same last name, and then let us through.”

The incident has since prompted a British lawyer to speak out about the importance of parents carrying extra documents such as birth and marriage certificates to prove children are actually their own (a particular issue when only one parent with a different surname is travelling with their children). Although it sounds extreme, unfortunately in this day and age it’s become a necessary precaution to protect children from cases of abduction. But surely it’s a common enough practice these days that having a different surname to your child won’t cause this kind of trouble on a regular basis?! 

Travelling with kids can be a problem if you don’t share the same surname

What’s in a name?

These days, it’s not terribly uncommon not share a last name with your child. You may have chosen to keep your own name after marriage, or never felt the need to marry your partner, been divorced and changed your name back to your maiden name, or you simply hate the name you got lumped with from your father and want to avoid bestowing the same offence onto your offspring. It’s also not uncommon for blended families to have multiple children with a collection of differing surnames to their parents or step-parents. That’s just how we roll these days. So putting Hannah Marshall’s problem to one side, how big a deal can it really be?

How big a deal is it, really?

The truth is that although annoying, most issues can be easily explained away. When you’re a mother with a different last name to your child the most annoying issue you will probably face is having to politely correct people a LOT. Despite mutual surnames for the whole family being less common, it’s still a natural assumption for many to make.

Expect wrongly addressed letters, incorrect names on forms, people calling you Mrs X when you’re not even married, and the need for additional explanation on top of your name (such as when calling daycare centres, schools or hospitals).

You might also get some nosy questions, such as “Oh is your partner not the father of your child?” or “Are you not with your child’s father anymore?” when in fact you might have only had the one baby daddy and you’re still happily married to him. You will face a lifetime of clarification about your family status but if this is the path you’re set on, it just comes with the territory. 

You will also have to do a bit of explaining to your little ones as they age but other than a bit of confusion and questions on why you’re different to best friend Sally’s parents –  Betty and Bob Smith – who all have the same surname, they will catch on soon enough. 

There is another option

But if you’re pregnant with your first and the thought of spending your child’s younger years explaining your surname is just too much effort – or you don’t want to carry your child’s birth certificate while travelling – there is of course another option. The double-barrel! This way at least you’ll be halfway the same name as your child, right?!

Do you experience any challenges having a different surname to your children?

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