The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that ‘every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name’.
In NSW when both parents agree to changing a child’s name, the change of name is registered with the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. A $195 fee is payable and both parents must complete and sign an Application to register a change of name for a child (under 18).
The Family Law Act defines a change to a child’s name as a major long-term issue. Consequently, if separated parents cannot agree on the name that a child will use, the parent seeking to change the child’s name will be required to obtain an Order from the court prior to the child’s name being changed.
The Family Court can make Orders restraining the use of a name and can also make Orders requiring both parents to ensure that the child is known only by a specific name (and no other name).
All change of name cases are decided on a case by case basis. The best interest of the child will always be the primary consideration and will override the desires of the parents. The range of factors to be taken into consideration in change of names cases have been stated by the Court to include:
- The advantages, both short term and long term, to the child if their name remains as it is or is changed;
- The time that the child spends with each of their parents;
- The identification/relationship that the child has with each parent and with any other children of their father and/or mother;
- Any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child;
- Any confusion of identity which may arise for the child, if a name is changed or not changed; and
- The effect of previous changes to the child’s name.
While the wishes of the child must be considered, the best interests of the child (when considering the matters noted above) will determine whether an application is successful.
If you have any questions relating change a child’s surname or any other family law matter please contact our firm to arrange a conference with Matthew Carney, an accredited specialist in family law on (02) 4944 3322.