When both parents agree, changing a child’s name is a simple matter of registering an application with the proper agency. However, when parents do not agree about changing a child’s name, a court order may be required. It is presumed that parents have equal shared parental responsibility for a child.
This means that parents should consult with each other on major long-term issues which affect a child. Changing a child’s name is considered a major long-term issue. If parents are not in agreement regarding a change of a child’s name, a court order may be necessary to either change the child’s name or to prevent such a change being made. Even in cases where one parent has been granted sole parental responsibility by an order of the Court, state legislation regarding the administration of public records may require another Court order to make a change to a child’s name.
Unfortunately, in some instances, conflicts over changing a child’s name originate from animosity between the parents and an effort by one or both parents to insult the other parent. Such motives would be irrelevant in a court’s decision as to whether a child’s name should be changed.
What do I have to do to change my child’s name?
In cases where parents do not agree on a change of name, a Court order may be required to formalise such a change.
There is no clear rule on what it takes to change a child’s name. As with all questions concerning children, in determining an application to change a child’s name the Court’s paramount consideration would be what is in the best interests of the child. In determining what is in the child’s best interests, the Court will take into account the child’s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Past cases have indicated that the Court will consider a variety of factors in such cases which can be grouped into two broad categories:
- The impact the decision will have on the child; and
- The impact the decision will have on the child’s relationship with each of the parents.
As each child is different, and the relationship each child has with each parent is different, the rulings of the Court have varied depending on the circumstances of the case.
In order to succeed in changing a child’s name, a parent would have to satisfy the Court that:
- not doing so would be detrimental to the child, while doing so would benefit the child; and
- doing so would not be excessively detrimental to the child’s relationship with each parent.
What do I need to do to stop my child’s name being changed?
To successfully block a change of name, a parent would have to satisfy the Court that:
- doing so would be detrimental to the child, and/or
- doing so would be detrimental to the child’s relationships with one or both of the parents.
Past cases indicate that a key factor in these cases is the nature of the relationship between the child and the parent who opposes the name change. Where this relationship is close, and the child identifies strongly with that parent, the Court is reluctant to disrupt that relationship by ordering a change of name.
Cases involving changes of a child’s name are often complicated. It is advisable in such cases to get legal advice at an early stage. Contact A.L.F. Lawyers at 3088 6161 for advice and assistance in getting the outcome you desire.