Can I change the surname of my child?
I frequently have client’s ask how they can change the child’s name, or, how to resolve a dispute where the parents cannot agree to change the child’s name. This is often the case in circumstances where the father was unaware that the child existed (or that their name didn’t appear on the birth certificate) or when the child has not spent much time with the father, and the mother wishes to change the child’s name as a result.
As parents have parental responsibility for the child (see ‘What is Parental Responsibility and why is it important in Family Law?’) it is accepted by the Court that the parents can change the child’s name if there is an agreement. If there is no agreement, or it is not known where the location or contact details of where the other parent is, the Court can make a determination as to whether it is in the best interest of the child for the child’s name to be changed.
Most recently in a case of Leggett v Willis the mother filed an application to change the child’s name in circumstances where the child had no contact with the father since the child was four months old (the child is now seven).
The Court took in the following considerations when changing the surname of the child:
- The best interest of the child;
- Any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child if the child’s name is different from the parent with whom the child normally lives;
- Any confusion of identity that may arise for the child if the child’s name is or is not changed;
- The amount of contact that the other parent has had with the child; and
- The degree of identification the child has with each parent.
Should you wish to find out more about the process of changing a child’s name, or otherwise seek advice in relation to family law matters, please contact: