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Chapter name. CHANGING YOUR NAME

According to the law, you can take on a new name simply by consistently using it. Provided you do not assume your new name for a criminal purpose, you are free to call yourself what you like, and to assume your name whenever you like. Some religions place restrictions on the way their members are allowed to change their names, but these restrictions have no legal effect.

You do not need to fill in any documents to make an assumed name legal, but many government departments, such as Centrelink and the Australian Passport Office, require written proof. If you need written proof of a name change, you should:

•    obtain an application for registration of a change of name from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; and

•    fill out the form and lodge it at the Registry. You will have to pay $63.30 for registration of the change of name plus $27.80 if a certificate is required. Provide documents of identification when you do this. (These fees are current from 1 July 2011. However, the fee changes each year and postal costs apply (if postage is required), so it is worth checking with the Registry before you make the payment).

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Ground Floor, 595 Collins Street

Melbourne Vic 3000

Postal address: PO Box 4332, Melbourne Vic 3001

Tel: 1300 369 367

Web: http://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/change+of+name/index.html

Information and forms may also be obtained and lodged via the Births, Deaths and Marriages online shop at the website listed above.

People born overseas

If you were born overseas and wish to register a change of name, there are special requirements which must be satisfied. You must provide proof of legal entitlement to remain in Australia indefinitely (e.g. a citizenship certificate, Australian passport or proof of Australian permanent resident visa) and also proof of at least three months residence in Victoria (e.g. utility accounts or bank statements). You must also provide proof of the place of your birth (e.g. a birth certificate or passport).

Prohibited names

The Registrar may refuse to register a prohibited name. A prohibited name is:

  • an obscene or offensive name; or
  • a name the registration of which would not be practicable because it is too long, consists of symbols or includes symbols with no phonetic significance, or for some other reason; or
  • a name the registration of which is against the public interest.

A change of name may generally be registered only once in any 12-month period. In exceptional circumstances, for example, for reasons of personal safety, this rule may be waived.

According to changes to the law that came into effect on 1 August 2005, the Registrar is required to notify the Chief Commissioner of Police of details of the change of name of certain sex offenders.

Let people know

If you change your name, you should tell all the various authorities that you deal with that you have changed your name; for example, your local council, VicRoads (if you have a driver's licence), the Commonwealth Electoral Commission, Australian Passport Office (if you have a passport), Australian Taxation Office (on your next return), Commissioner of Land Tax (if you own a house), telephone provider, electricity or gas company, etc.

Don't forget to tell your employer (if you work).

A will is valid even if the willmaker has changed names.

Marriage

When a woman marries it is a custom for her to assume the surname of her husband. There is no law which says she has to. She may keep her maiden name or combine her own surname with that of her husband. Her husband has a corresponding choice.

If a woman who has used her husband's (or her former husband's) name on the marriage certificate wishes to use her maiden name again, all she needs to do is to start using that name again as her birth certificate will still be in that name, she already has written proof of that name. However, it is again important to let people know.

Naming a child

A child's name can be registered under any name not just the name of one or both of the parents. If the proposed name of the child is a prohibited name, or if both parents satisfy the Registrar that they are unable to agree on the child's name, the Registrar can assign a name to the child.

If there is a dispute between the parents about a child's name, either parent can apply to the Federal Magistrates Court for resolution of the dispute. The court can make an order requesting that the Registrar register the child's name as specified in the order. There is no specific provision in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) either dealing with changing a child's name or granting power to the court to directly order the Registrar to record any change of name. The court will make the order if it is in the child's best interest that it do so.

Changing a child’s name

A person under the age of 18 cannot register a change to their name unless they are married or have been married. The parents of a child under the age of 18 can apply for registration of any change of name of the child. One parent may make an application to register the change of a child's name if that parent is named in the registration of the child's birth in Victoria.

If the child is 12 years or older, their consent to the registration of the change of name is required unless the Registrar is satisfied that the child is unable to understand the meaning and implications of the change of name.

Most cases involving changing a child's name are heard in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Family Court. This will be so where the child's parents were married at the time the child was named. The court must be satisfied that the proposed change is in the child's best interest. The Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court, from time to time, has made decisions allowing the change of names of children, or restraining (stopping) the change of names of children, or restoring previous names of children.

Adoption of children also gives rise to registration of new names for adopted children. This applies to both children adopted under local laws as well as Inter Country Adoption.

If a child's name is to be changed for reasons not related to a family law matter, the County Court may be appropriate.

Changing registration of parentage details

The Registrar may include registrable information about the identity of the child's parents in the Register by joint application of the parents of the child or on the application of one parent of the child because the other parent is dead or cannot be found. One parent of the child can change registered parentage details if the Registrar is satisfied the other parent does not dispute the correctness of the information;

Contacts & Further Information

For more information on this subject refer to The Law Handbook chapter 5.6 Changing your name.

Federation of Community Legal Centres
(for referral to your nearest service)
Tel: 9652 1500
Web: www.communitylaw.org.au
Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
Tel: 1300 369 367
Web: http://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/change+of+name/index.html
Victoria Legal Aid
Tel: 9269 0120
Web: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
County Court of Victoria
Tel: 8636 6508
Web: www.countycourt.vic.gov.au.

Last updated: Fri Mar 1st 2013