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In the case of Waller & Casson heard by the Family Court of Australia on 2 September 2015, a mother’s application to hyphenate her son’s surname to include her surname was dismissed. The child was eight years old at the time and the mother argued to the Court that the inclusion of her surname in hyphenated form with the father’s surname would clearly identify her son’s connection with her family.

An Independent Children’s Lawyer (“ICL“) was appointed by the Court to represent the child’s best interests. The ICL commented that there was no evidence to support the mother’s assertion that it would be in the child’s best interests for his name to be changed. The mother’s application to change the child’s surname was also opposed by the child’s Father.

The Court agreed with the ICL and the Father and found that it was not in the child’s best interests to change his surname. The Court found that the Mother had not demonstrated how changing the child’s name after eight years would serve the child’s interests. The Judge also noted that there was no evidence that the child had used any other name or that the child’s use of his name had caused him any embarrassment or confusion.

Courts are reluctant to change a child’s name where there is no convincing evidence before the Court that it is in the child’s best interests to do so. Courts recognise that parents arguing over a child’s surname can cause confusion and insecurity for the child. Judges are wary that a child’s surname can sometimes be seen as a proprietary interest by some parents. The welfare of the child is an important consideration when a Judge decides whether or not changing a child’s name is in the child’s best interests.

If you are interested in the process involved in changing a child’s name, why not have a read of our article entitled Changing a Child’s Surname published in our April 2015 edition of the Kells Report. A copy of this article can be found here.