My daughter’s dad and I aren’t together anymore – but when she was born, she took his surname and of course, we put his name on her birth certificate. At the time, and at only 21 years old, I had no idea how difficult that would make things, six years down the line.
Now, in a different long-term relationship, my ex-partner and I no longer have contact. Now, however, we have three different surnames in our home, and going abroad requires meticulous planning; and that’s not just because my daughter is autistic.
We planned to take my daughter to Disneyland for her birthday this year. After a lot of fuss and worry about getting her actual passport, because initially I thought I would require her dad’s signature (turns out, I don’t), I was informed that I would be questioned at passport control because we have different surnames, and I would need to ask for a letter from her dad giving me permission to take her out of the country.
It immediately made me anxious. I knew I had her birth certificate, so I reluctantly packed that, alongside a letter sent to our home with mine and my daughter’s name on it. Travelling for over four hours with a young, autistic child was stressful enough, but the weight of what could happen was overwhelming for me. I’d paid hundreds of pounds for my daughter to have an amazing time away – what if they refuse us entry? What if the birth certificate isn’t enough? She’s non-verbal, how will they get her to answer if they ask? Why do I even need to provide this information? I am her mother.
Luckily, we had no problems. Luckily. To say I was on edge there and back would be an understatement. Then on the last leg of our journey back, I saw a tweet from the Home Office stating, “if your family has different surnames, please bring birth or adoption certificates to help get through passport control quicker.” This was to prevent child trafficking and to safeguard. The replies I saw were majority against this, and many women, and men, were in the same boat as me.
My daughter’s dad has no contact with her, but should he want to take her out of the country, it would be okay for him to do so as they share the same surname, but I require his permission to take her on holiday. Her main carer. Her mother. The person who brought her into the world.
As an autistic, non-verbal child, she would have no way of fighting this if it was to happen, and to me, that is far from safeguarding. I shouldn’t have to prove this by having to carry a mound of incredibly important information around with me. What is stopping the Government from updating passports to have parental information on them for minors? This should be the norm. It is for other countries, so why are women in the UK having to suffer at the hands of men, when it is 2018 and many families now choose not to share the same surname?
I have to jump through hoops to get my daughter’s surname changed to mine, again getting permission from her father to do so. It is emotionally exhausting, and all that anyone wants is an easy life.
I want to be able to take my daughter on holiday, without having to worry that I have the necessary paperwork to prove that she is my child. I want to be able to easily change her surname to what I see fit, if my partner and I get married one day for example, because having a disabled child with very little understanding makes that even harder.
All in all, I’m fed up. I am fed up of the Government who are happily perpetuating a society where they still think every family should have the same surname, whilst punishing those who do not follow their expectations.
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