The vexed issue of the exercise of the parental right to determine the surname of a child has been the subject of limited authority. In MRG v MD [2017] SC EDIN 70, Sheriff Holligan was asked to determine competing claims for the children to be known by the names of the separated parents.

The sheriff expressed some doubt about the established wisdom of Wilkinson and Norrie, Parent and Child, that “renaming, at least, is matter that requires the agreement of both parents”, but nevertheless determined: “that is not to say a unilateral decision to change a surname is appropriate”.

In this case both surnames were already in use and the sheriff viewed this more as a dispute about which surname the children should be known by. The neat compromise was to use both surnames – the father’s name followed by the mother’s name – recognising the involvement of both parents in the lives of the children and providing some certainty moving forward.