Can I change my child's name?
If your child was born in Western Australia, their birth was registered in Western Australia or they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident and have been living in WA for at least the past 12 months you can change their name by making an application to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. The Registrar has the power to make decisions about names of children - called 'discretion'. The Registrar has the power to decide whether or not you can change the child's given names or family name.
Does the other parent have to agree?
Yes, the other parent has to agree to a name change unless you are the only parent on the birth certificate, the other parent has died or the Family Court makes an order for the child's name to be changed.
If your child is over 12 years of age they will also have to agree to their name being changed.
Usually if there is a disagreement about changing your child's name the Registrar will tell you that you will need to apply to the Family Court for an order to change the child's name.
What if the other parent does not agree to the change?
You can first try to come to an agreement with the other parent through Family dispute resolution or one or more of the other methods outlined in Other ways to resolve a family law dispute.
You must attempt family dispute resolution (FDR) with a registered family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP) before you can go to the Family Court. There are some exceptions to this - see further Family dispute resolution and Before you go to Court - children.
If after participating in FDR you are still unable to come to an agreement, you can ask the FDRP to issue you with a certificate that will enable you to file an application at the Family Court to change your child’s name.
What does the Court look at to decide whether to allow a change to a child's name?
In making its decision about whether to order that a child's name be changed, the Family Court looks at what is in the Best interests of the child.
The Court may also look at a range of other things relevant to making a decision about changing the name of a child, including:
- the reasons why you want to change the name, for example, you have remarried and have other children in your family with different names
- the long and short term effects of the name change
- whether there are advantages to changing the child's name
- any embarrassment to the child in keeping their current name
- any confusion of identity for the child that may arise for the child if his/her name is or is not changed
- the effect a name change might have on the person whose name the child had originally
- the other parent's wishes
- the amount of time the other parent spends with the child
- the degree of identification the child has with each parent (or step parent)
If you are successful and the Court orders that you can change the child's name then you should give a copy of the order to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages with your application to change the child's name.
Can I use a different name for my child without officially changing it?
It is legal to use a different name for your child, as long as it is not for any fraudulent purpose. Children can usually be enrolled at day-care and primary school under a different name, but some things require the child’s name to be used as shown on their birth certificate – for example, for a passport or Medicare card.
Be aware that sometimes using a different name for a child can cause complications for the child later in life. For example, when they go to seek enrolment at university or try to find a job (where they may be required to give their legal name) they may need to show copies of their school reports and certificates or awards which would be in a different name.
If the other parent finds out you are using a different name for your child, they may apply to the Family Court for an injunction to prevent you from using that name for your child. See further below under Can I stop the other parent using a different name for our child?
Can I stop the other parent using a different name for our child?
If the other parent is using a different name for your child and you do not agree with the use of this name, you can apply to the Family Court for an injunction. If you are successful, an injunction will stop the other parent from using a particular name for the child and require them to use the child's registered name.
You will need to follow certain steps before going to Court, including attending family dispute resolution (unless you fall within an exception). For more information, see Family dispute resolution and Before you go to Court – children.
An injunction will not necessarily be granted automatically and you will need to show evidence that another name is being used. The other party will need to show that it is in the best interests of the child to change the name to the name being used. The Family Court might need to hear from all people involved to decide which name the child should be called. See Best interests of the child.
Last reviewed: 22/10/2012