When a child is born they must be given a name which is registered. Following divorce or separation, an issue often arises as to the surname the children of that marriage or partnership are to be known by. This is particularly the case where a parent wishes to revert back to their maiden name or has remarried a parent may seek to change their children’s name to avoid any confusion of identity.
Under the Family Law Act changing a child’s name is considered a “major long term issue”. As with any “major long term issue”, all those holding parental responsibility must give their full consent before deviating from the status quo. If an agreement cannot be reached between both parents as to a change of name, Court proceedings may be required.
A parent can apply to the Court for an Order either restraining a former partner from using a name for the child other than the child’s registered birth name or apply for an order permitting the parent to unilaterally change the child’s name. The most significant consideration when determining whether to restrain or allow a child’s name to be changed is always the best interest of the child.
This requires a consideration of the following factors:
- The welfare of the child involved;
- The amount of contact the child has had with the non-custodial parent;
- The length of time the child has used a specific surname;
- The effect that a name change would have upon the child
- The effect that a name change would have upon the child’s relationship with either parent;
- Any embarrassment or confusion which may arise if their name is or is not changed;
- The need for a child to identify with either parent or with a new family unit through a common name; and
- For mature age children, the wishes of the child.
In the recent case of Reynolds & Sherman the court allowed the hyphenation of a child’s name on the basis that it was is in the best interests of the child that he has a surname which accurately reflects his heritage. The court emphasised that hyphenating the child’s name enhances his sense of identity with both his father and the mother and their extended families.
If you are considering changing your child’s name or you wish to restrain a former partner from changing your child’s name, please contact us on (02) 4322 0251 to speak to Kathy Matri for a no obligation chat.