Applying to change your child’s name after separation or divorce.

Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), parents are required to make decisions jointly in regards to all matters concerning their child’s long-term care, welfare and development.

If both parents agree to change their child’s name, the process is simple. In New South Wales, applications to register a change of a child’s name are governed by Section 28 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995.

‘The parents of a child may apply to the Registrar, in a form approved by the Registrar, for registration of a change of the child’s name if –

a) The child’s birth is registered in the State, or
b) The child was born outside Australia, the child’s birth is not registered in Australia and the child has been a resident in the State for at least 3 consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the application.’

The approved form is titled an ‘Application to Register a Change of Name for a Child (Under 18)’. Once completed, this form should be lodged with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for determination. It is noted, if the child in question is over the age of 12 years at the time the application is lodged, that child will be required to sign the application form.

An application for registration of a change of a child’s name may be made by one parent in the following circumstances:

a) ‘the applicant is the sole parent named in the registration of the child’s birth under this Act or any other law (including a corresponding law), or
b) there is no other surviving parent of the child, or
c) a court approves the proposed change of name.’

Expanding on part (c) as described in the above paragraph, prior to making an application to the Court, parents must attend a Family Dispute Resolution Conference in an attempt to resolve their differences. If it is not appropriate for the parents to attend such a Conference, the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner will issue a certificate pursuant to Section 60i of the Family Law Act, enabling the parent or parents in receipt of the Section 60i Certificate, to make an application directly to the Court.

In the case of Chapman v Palmer (1978), the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia considered in what circumstances it would be appropriate to change a child’s surname. The Full Court determined the following factors should be considered:

1. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration;
2. The short and long term effects of any change in the child’s surname;
3. Any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child if his or her name is different from that of the parent with custody or care or control;
4. Any confusion of identity which may arise for the child if his or her name is changed or is not changed;
5. 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 marriage; and
6. The effect of frequent or random changes of name.

At Everingham Solomons we have the expertise and experience to assist you with all legal matters associated with Family Law because Helping You is Our Business.

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