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Changing a child’s surname post-separation is a common occurrence in family law. The process is relatively straightforward if both parents agree. However, it becomes complicated when one parent wishes to change a child’s surname post-separation and the other parent opposes such change.
In parenting matters, the Court must apply a presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility in relation to major long-term issues concerning the child. Under section 4 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), changing a child’s name is considered a major long-term issue in relation to the care, welfare, and development of the child. This means that parents must consult with each other before making a decision to change a child’s name.
The presumption of equal shared parental responsibility does not apply if a parent of the child has engaged in abuse of the child or family violence. The Family Court decision of Reagan & Orton  considered whether a mother could hyphenate the child’s surname without the father’s consent in circumstances where she had sole parental responsibility.
Despite not being required under the existing Orders to consult with the father in relation to changing the child’s name, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 (Qld) requires both parents to apply to change a child’s name unless:
The Court identified a number of relevant factors in determining whether a change to a child’s surname is in the child’s best interests, including:
The Court decided that permitting the mother to adopt a hyphenated surname for the child was in the child’s best interests for the following reasons:
Although this decision provides an example of the Court’s approach to determining whether changing a child’s surname is in the child’s best interests, outcomes will vary depending on individual circumstances.
If you are considering changing your child’s name in QLD (Queensland), then contact the team at James Noble Law today for a free, no-obligation 20-minute consultation today to schedule an appointment with one of our Qualified and experienced Family lawyers Brisbane.
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