January 2019 | Georgia Dight

Family lawyers are often asked by parents whether they are able to change their child’s surname after separation or divorce. This generally occurs when a parent has reverted to their maiden name or is marrying a new partner with a different name to their own. In New South Wales, a name change includes amending any part of a name (even a hyphenation). So when a parent comes to us and raises the issue of changing their child’s surname are there any legal issues that may prevent them from doing so?

In New South Wales, if it is agreed by the parents of the child to implement a change of name, they must both complete and register the appropriate application with the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.

If the parents don’t agree, it is possible for the Court to make orders in relation to the child’s name.

Before applying to the Court for any order, parents are required to attend mediation with a registered Family Dispute Resolution practitioner to try and resolve the dispute. If the parents can’t reach an agreement, a Section 60I certificate will be provided and an application can then be made to the Court.

All change of name applications are decided on a case by case basis and must be considered to be in the child’s best interests pursuant to s60CC of the Family Law Act 1975. Some of the factors that have been considered by the Court previously include:

  • the welfare of the child as the paramount consideration
  • the short and long-term effect of any change in the child’s name
  • any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child if his or her name is different from that of the parent with whom the child lives or who has the care or control of the child
  • any confusion of identity which may arise for the child if his or her name is changed or not changed
  • the effect which any change in surname may have on the relationship between the child and the parent whose name the child bore during the relationship
  • the effect of frequent random changes of name
  • advantages, both short and long-term, of a change
  • the time the child spends with the other parent (i.e. with whom the child does not live)
  • the degree of identification with the parents
  • the degree of identification with any new child
  • the child’s age and any opinion of the child as to the name change, if age appropriate

If you have any questions about changing a child’s name, please call Harris Freidman on (02) 9231 2466 to speak to one of our experienced Family Lawyers.