Changing your child’s surname
When it comes to changing your child’s surname, courts don’t usually look favourably upon it, unless it’s seen as being in the child’s best interest. A mother recently sought a hyphenated surname for her 8-year-old son. Here’s what the court decided.
The applicant mother applied to the court to change her 8-year-old son’s surname, to make it hyphenated with her maiden name. It was an application that was opposed by the boy’s father.
The court considered a number of factors, including:
- the welfare of the child is paramount
- the short and long-term effects of any change in the child’s name
- any embarrassment likely to be experienced by the child if his name is different from that of parent with custody, or care and control
- any confusion of identity which any changes in surnames may have on the relationship between the child, and the parent
- the effect of frequent or random changes of name
The Judge noted there were situations where “one parent or the other and possibly both, appear to attach far too much importance to the question of the child’s surname. It is seen by some parents as almost a proprietary interest”.
The Judge added that attitudes of that kind were “unlikely to find favour with the court”.
“The court should give no encouragement to parents who seek to change a child’s name for reasons unconnected to the welfare of the child, (and) the fact that parents are haggling over the surname can of itself engender insecurity and confusion in the child’s mind,” the Judge said, dismissing the mother’s application for a change of name.
In another recent case, the mother was seeking sole parental responsibility and for all three of her children as well as them each having hyphenated surnames. The father opposed the application for sole parental responsibility and wanted his name registered as the children’s official surname. He said the children could be known by a hyphenated surname in their day to day lives if they wished.
At the time of the trial the eldest child had the father’s surname, while the younger two had their mother’s surname.
The father lived in the United states and the mother argued that father had limited contact and involvement in the children’s lives. The judge found distance was not a factor, and decided that all children would be known by one hyphenated surname, in all official and unofficial capacities.
The courts have said it is now common and accepted practice for children to have a different surname from at least one of their parents, even in intact relationships.
If you have questions about custody arrangements, or other issues of family law, please contact Michael Lynch Family Lawyers on: (07) 3221 4300 or email: [email protected]