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Can my ex-partner change our child’s name without my consent?

The answer to this may depend of the circumstances of your situation such as whether or not there are current court orders in place and also the child’s age.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1988 (WA) allows the parents of a child to apply to change a child’s name to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (‘BDM’). In this case both parents need to sign the Application to Register Change of Name and file it at the Registry. If the child is 12 years or order, the parents cannot change the name of the said child without the child’s consent (unless the child is not able to understand the implications of the change). In this case, the child must sign the Application to Register Change of Name.

In cases where the parents to a child under 12 years old cannot agree, a parent can commence an application in the Family Court of Western Australia (‘FCWA’) for a name change. Applications in the FCWA are often commenced in circumstances where:
1. As indicated earlier, where one parent wants a name change and the other parent won’t agree;
2. Where one parent becomes aware of and disagrees with the other parent using an incorrect name for a child and wishes to prevent this; and
3. Where the child applies to the court wishing to change their name and the parents do not agree with the change.

When considering the applications, the FCWA focuses of the child’s best interests. If the court finds that it’s in the child’s best interests to have their name changed, the court normally makes a formal declaration to that effect and the Registrar of the BDM must register the change of name.

Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘FLA’), changing of a child’s name is a ‘major long-term issue’ that parents are responsible for.

In circumstances where there are parenting orders (‘orders’) in place and the orders provide for the parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child, that exercise of parental responsibility involves the making decisions about the major long-term issues affecting the child and as such decisions such as the ‘change of name’ should be made jointly. Parents must consult each other in relation to the decision to be made and make a genuine effort to come to a joint decision. It should be noted that a parenting order may provide for one parent to have the sole responsibility making decisions about the long-term issues affecting a child and as such it is possible for one parent to change a child’s name.

Should you wish to make an application or respond to an application in relation to changing a child’s name in the Court, please do not hesitate to contact us.