The Rules of Changing your Child's Surname
Changing a child’s surname can’t be done simply as a matter of convenience to one or other of the parents. There are many other considerations, as The RMB Family Law division explains:
In NSW a child’s surname may only be changed in circumstances where both parents of the child (as named on the child’s birth certificate) consent to the change of name – unless there is an Order of the Court, or where one parent is deceased.
The child must also be under 18, born in NSW or, if born overseas, be a resident of NSW for three consecutive years at the time the application is made.
Even in circumstances where both parents agree to change a child’s name, the Office of Births, Deaths, and Marriages may reject the change of name if the child’s surname has previously been changed in the past 12 months, or more than three times.
If one parent does not consent to the change of a child’s surname, or the relationship between the parent and the child is such that the child does not have a relationship with that parent, the other parent may make an Application to the Court seeking that the child’s surname be changed.
In considering whether a child’s surname should be changed, the Court will consider:
- The welfare of the child;
- The short and long-term effects of any change in the child’s surname;
- Any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child if the child’s name is different from that of the parent with custody or care and control
- Any confusion of identity which may arise for the child if his or her name is changed or not changed
- 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
- The effect of frequent or random changes of name.
Generally, a Court will not consider it appropriate that a child’s surname be changed as a matter of convenience to the party seeking the change.
However, Courts have granted name changes where a mother has sole parental responsibility. In Nixon v Johanson in 2016 the Court granted a surname change for a four-year-old to “avoid any confusion or embarrassment for the child once he goes to school or in circumstances where he has to undergo medical or hospital treatment."