How To Change Your Child's Name

For some people at the end of a bad marriage or long-term relationship it is their wish to change their name or their child wishes to change their name. Rachael Scharrer, divorce expert and founder of Divorce Answered.com.au, knows first-hand the desire, challenges and how to change a child’s name. Rachael was and still is the primary carer of two children and is the sole financial provider for the children. Accordingly, she wanted her name reflected in the children’s lastnames post-separation. When Rachael approached her ex-spouse, he flatly refused. After some resistance and time, he realised that it wasn’t such a big issue and agreed to the name change.

Most parents don’t want to know about what another person has done, they want to know how to do it themselves. Here is some relevant and practical information:

As with all government documents, including those pertaining to Births, Deaths and Marriages, application forms must be filled out correctly. No matter what type of relationship that you are currently in or have been in, there are three ways to change your child’s name when both parents are alive and named on the birth certificate.

The first way is by mutual consent. This means that both parents agree to the child’s name change and jointly sign the one name change form. It is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to change your child’s name.

The second way is if one parent was awarded ‘Sole Parental Responsibility.’ When parents separate, they default to having Equal Shared Parental Responsibility. Unless there has been a court order to change this status, specifically to Sole Parental Responsibility, then you will have to proceed with changing your child’s name by consent or by agitating the Family Court.

The third and final way is by Court Order from the Family Court. Currently, the Family Law Act of 1975 does not have any provisions for name changes which makes this path potentially more complicated, protracted, contentious and expensive. The Court Ordered name change will not be made to Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry – rather it will ‘award’ one parent the right to make the name change or order the child to be known by a particular name. The Presiding Family Court Judge appointed to your case takes a number and combination of considerations in to account. They include:

  1. Domestic Violence and personal violence orders (AVO, DVO and ADVO) – depending on the severity of the domestic violence in the family and the exposure the child has had to the domestic violence, this may weigh heavily on the decision whether or not to order a name change. The welfare of the child factors heavily on a name change decision
  2. What is in the best interest of the child, advantages or disadvantages of changing the name and the individual circumstances surrounding the requested name change. This factors in the embarrassment of the child having a different lastname to their primary carer or family and
  3. The child’s identity and associated confusion (with or without the name change). Where does the child align themselves with the lastname options? How closely does the child identify themselves with the proposed new lastname or existing lastname? The care percentage of each parent is also considered in the decision. If the child is living in a family whereby one parent has married, changed their name and has children from the new relationship with a different lastname, then in some situations, the child from a previous marriage may want to have the same name as the blended/step family
  4. The child’s wishes (age dependent). When a child becomes more mature and of suitable age to make decisions, say age 13, the court will take the child’s wishes into consideration. Be warned: do not coach your child to want their name changed because if it is revealed, the Court will not look favourably upon you
  5. The effect of the name change on the relationship with each parent. It is important for the child to have a meaningful and quality relationship with each parent. Should changing the name affect the relationship with a parent in a negative manner, this will also be considered. How much the parent whose lastname the child currently has and uses will also play a contributing role in the final decision.

Thinking that it would be ‘more convenient’ if your child had a different lastname is not an appropriate reason to proceed with a name change.

So what new lastname will your child have? There are so many options!! Here are a few:

  1. You might like to consider whether you remove the other parent’s lastname
  2. Use your new maiden or second-marriage lastname
  3. Double-barrel the lastnames of each parent
  4. Use the original lastname as a middle name and introduce a new lastname.

Once you have either Sole Parental Responsibility, mutual consent with the child’s other parent or relevant Court Order, you will have to fill out an application with your individual state/territory’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.

You may like to read more about Sole Parental Responsibility or Equal Shared Parental Responsibility.

Disclaimer

This is general advice only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer and/or accountant before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. DivorceAnswered.com.au cannot provide legal advice. If you have an emergency situation, please contact Emergency '000'. © Divorce Pty Ltd