WHAT’S IN A NAME? HOW TO CHANGE YOUR CHILD’S NAME AFTER SEPARATION
Names form an essential part of any person’s identity. In recognition of this fact, decisions regarding a child’s legal name have been defined as a “major long-term issue” by the Family Law Act 1975. It is not surprising that this issue can often arise in post-separation parenting cases, where one parent wants to change their child’s name.
Name changes are formally made by each State’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, but what is required to apply to change a child’s name successfully differs depending on the circumstances.
In this circumstance, single mothers can change their child’s name by filing the required application form for a change of name with Births, Deaths and Marriages. To be successful in this application, it is important to ensure that you comply with the rules surrounding name changes, being:
- The child’s first name must not have been changed prior to their first birthday;
- The child’s surname must not have been changed in the 12 months prior to applying for a change of the child’s name;
- The new name sought for the child must not be a “prohibited” name; and
- (If between 12 and 17 years) The child must consent to the change of name.
FATHER IS RECORDED ON THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE
Where both parents are named on the child’s birth certificate, the child’s name can only be changed in one of 3 ways:
- By both parents’ consent;
- By obtaining an Order of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, or Family Court of Australia, which specifically states that the parent seeking to change the child’s name is permitted to do so; or
- If one parent is deceased, by filing an application to change the child’s name directly with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages with a certified copy of the deceased parent’s death certificate.
The Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages previously allowed single parents to apply to change their child’s name without the other parent’s consent if the parent seeking the name change had obtained an Order from the Family Courts which awarded them “sole parental responsibility”. The reason for this was that “parental responsibility” refers to the rights and duties of a parent to make decisions in relation to major long-term issues affecting the child.
This position changed after a father successfully appealed a decision of the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to allow a child’s name to be changed based on the mother’s application, which was supported by a parenting order that awarded her sole parental responsibility.
If you are not already in Court, you can either commence proceedings by filing an Initiating Application seeking an order that permits you to change your child’s name. Alternatively, if you are already in Court, you will need to amend the final orders you are seeking to include an order allowing you to change your child’s name.
If you or someone you know is wanting to change a child’s name and not sure how to go about it, contact our office on (07) 5591 2222 to book a free initial consultation with one of our family law experts to discuss how we can assist with any applications necessary to change the child’s name.