What Family Law Says About A Parent Changing A Child’s Name After Separation Or Divorce

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March 1, 2023

One of the enquiries that many family lawyers get from their clients who have children and who have separated or divorced, concerns the rights and legalities of changing a child’s name. Most usually that will be to change their surname rather than their first name, although that does get raised occasionally.

Almost without exception enquiries to family lawyers about changing a child’s surname will come from the child’s mother, who, having changed her surname when she got married, wishes to either revert to her maiden name or it could be she is going to remarry and change her surname to that of her new spouse. It follows that the child’s mother may want her child’s surname to match hers for practical and emotional reasons.

Family Law And Shared Parental Responsibility

One of the core principles enshrined in current family law, and in particular the 1975 Family Law Act, is that of shared parental responsibility. It means that, even if a child lives primarily with one of their parents, their absent parent has as much say in their child’s well-being as the resident parent. As such, a child’s mother cannot make important decisions about the child, including what surname they use, independently and without discussion with the child’s father.