What’s In a Name?
The surname that a Child carries after separation, is often a contentious issue, dependant upon the relationship of the parents and whether they have new partners and or children.
To an adult, a surname one carries may not seem to be a major issue, apart from the fact of carrying on a family name, however, to a Child, a surname can be of major importance, in terms of their sense of belonging to a family unit and not being set-apart from their parent and or siblings.
Following separation, some parents decide to hyphenate a Child’s surname, so the Child can share in the surnames of the parents and have a sense of identity with both family units. In this instance, the parents can complete the necessary paperwork with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to obtain the name change. Both parents are required to consent to such name change, as it is usual for parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the long-term care, welfare and development of a Child.
In circumstances where one parent will not agree to a name change, the Court may assist upon an Application being made for a name change. When making such determination, the Court is focused on what is in the best interests of the Child and on occasions, the Court will seek the input of a Family Consultant (ie – Social Worker or Psychologist), to give their view on the matter. The issue becomes more clear-cut when a parent is absent from the life of a Child for a significant period and the parent with whom the Child lives moves on with their lives, obtaining a new partner and having more Children. In this instance, the Child will often feel out of place and to ensure a sense of belonging to the “new” family unit, the Court will often allow such name change.
Upon an Order being made for name change, the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages can act upon the Order, even though the consent of the other parent is not obtained.
In summary, it is important to not underestimate the importance of a surname for a Child after separation, in terms of their development and sense of identity.
Should you wish to discuss changing your Child’s surname or your separation generally, please feel free to contact one of our Gold Coast Family Lawyers for a free fifteen minute telephone conversation to know where you stand.