‘Can I change my child’s surname?’ is the most asked question Maddison Jago hears in family law disputes.
The Creevey Russell lawyer said that the surnames of children were often in contention between the parents in dispute before the courts. There is no specific provision in the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975 in relation to changing a child’s name, she said, but the courts can order a child to be known by a particular name.
Ms Jago added that the courts will consider the short and long-term effects of any change in the child’s surname.
“In determining whether they should make an order, the court must give paramount consideration to the best interests of the child, in the specific circumstances of the individual case,” she said.
Embarrassment is one of the factors that the court will take into account when considering the best interests of the child, Ms Jago said.
“Also determined is the effect which any change in surname may have on the relationship between the child and the parent; and the effect of frequent or random changes of name.”
“The court will also examine whether any confusion of identity which may arise for the child if his or her name is changed or not changed,” she said.
Ms Jago noted that the Family Court does not have the power to make an order to direct the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to change the child’s name on the birth register (in each state/territory).
“As they are not a party to the family law proceedings, the [Registry] of Births, Deaths and Marriages cannot be bound by any court order,” Ms Jago said.