Change of name declined
Change of Name
- The mother submits to the Court that an order for the child’s surname to be changed to include her surname, is an order that is in the child’s best interest.
- The mother approached the father about changing the child’s surname approximately three years ago, and indeed she commenced proceedings in that regard in October 2014. At the time, the child was just four years old and had not yet started school. The father did not consent then, nor does he consent now to the child’s surname being changed.
- The father says that the child’s name was agreed at her birth or shortly thereafter, evidence which the Court accepts given that it is the name she was registered under by the parties after she was born. The father says that the child knows her surname; that she is proud of her surname and that in his view the child would be confused about now having to change her surname particularly given that she is already at school.
- The mother says that she believes the child would be proud to have both her parents’ surnames, and that she ought to be known by the mother’s surname because the mother is her primary carer and the person she spends most of her time with. The mother submits that the child ought to also carry her mother’s surname so that she feels like she is a part of the mother’s extended family.
- The mother has already commenced hyphenating the child’s surname on what the mother calls ‘informal’ occasions – such as the child’s enrolment in (hobby omitted); that is the mother has already been using a name which is not the child’s surname to refer to the child. Such actions are likely to lead to confusion for the child.
- Mr G notes as follows:
The name change issue appeared quite important to the mother. Ms Mayes argued that she has not been married to the father and considers it unfair for X to retain his name solely.
It seemed of greater importance that X’s surname be changed to acknowledge the mother’s role as primary parent. Ms Mayes argued that the child spends most of her time with her side of the family and predicted she will want to see this reflected in her name as she grows older.
On the subject of proposed name changed the father remained opposed, arguing the names are too long and cumbersome to be joined together. He did not agree that X will be affected by this issue, stating if she wants to change her surname when “older” he will consider her request then.
- The opinion expressed by Mr G on the issue of change of name was as follows:
… each person offered firm reasons for his/her proposal yet (at her young age) X was not in a position to express a view. If no formal decision is made on this issue at the present time the parents would be advised to take into account any preference the girl may express when she is older.
… in the event of no immediate decision being made about X’s surname, the parties seek family mediation should issues arise at a future time.
- The principles regarding a change of name for children are articulated in the Full Court decision of Chapman & Palmer (1978) FLC 90-150.
- In a helpful summary, which the Court respectfully adopts, Judge Turner in Slade & Hewitt  FMCAfam 812 held that consideration must be given to:
- The welfare of the child being the paramount consideration;
- Any short or long term effect of any change in the child’s name;
- Any confusion of identity which may arise for the child of a name change if a name change does or does not occur;
- Any embarrassment that the child may experience if their name is different to that of the primary carer;
- The effect that any change of name may have on the child’s relationship with the parent whose name the child bears; and
- The effect of frequent or random changes of name.
- There is no evidence before the Court as to the child’s current views about her surname. She is now seven years old. The Court is not persuaded by the evidence and after hearing submissions, that her surname ought to be changed at the present time.
- The name which the child has is the name which the child has been known by at her school and for the purposes of any ‘formal’ matters. While the mother has used the hyphenated name to refer to the child when enrolling her into (hobby omitted), the evidence does not suggest that the child considers her surname to be anything other than “Denning”.
- There is no evidence to suggest that the child does not feel like she is part of the extended maternal family because she carries her father’s surname, or that this prevents her in any way from engaging or being involved with the extended maternal family.
- There is no evidence that the child is confused about her name or the role of her mother should she retain the father’s surname as her name.
- It is likely that for a seven year old child a name change might be confusing and it may have a negative impact on the child, for example it may result in a temporary questioning of her identity, as a hyphenated name would give the child a surname that differs from that of her father and differs from that of her mother.
- Lastly the application for change of name appears to be more of an application which is focused on the mother’s wishes rather than being an application made in the best interests of the child. This is not to suggest that it was made mala fides, rather that it is an application which may well be misguided.