Ordinarily a child's name is a matter of state law and is provided for under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA). Where the parents agree, a change of a child's name can be done by completion of a form at the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.
Where parents do not agree, either may apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for an order changing the child's name [see Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA) s 22]. Such matters were previously heard in the Magistrates Court. The Family Law Courts do not actually make orders changing a child's name but may make an order providing for the name by which the child is to be known, the name to be used in enrolling the child in a school, etc. If there are already proceedings for parenting orders and the name is a disputed issue, it may be convenient to make this application at the same time. However, if there are no parenting issues in dispute and the only dispute is as to the child's name, an application to SACAT is the appropriate step to take to determine the issue.
A child of any age must consent to a change of name unless the child is unable to understand the meaning and implications of the change of name [Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA) s 26].
One parent may apply to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages to change a child's name if:
See Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA) s 25(2).
Before the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) will grant an order changing a child's name, the parent applying must satisfy the tribunal that the change of name will be in the best interests of the child. The non-consenting parent can tell SACAT why the child's name should not be changed, and it is up to the tribunal to make its decision, taking all matters into account.
The Family Court has set out the following factors that a court or tribunal should consider in deciding whether or not a child's name should be changed:
SACAT takes into account the relationship between the non-consenting parent and the child and the contact that parent has had, or is likely to have, with the child. The Tribunal will also consider the degree of identification the child has with that parent, or with the parent applying (and where applicable, any step parent). If the tribunal makes an order authorising the change of a child's name, the Registrar may then accept the application to register the change of name.
Even where SACAT makes an order authorising the change of a child's name, the change must still be registered at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry for it to be effective.
Costs apply for both applying to SACAT for an order authorising the change of a child's name, and for the subsequent registration of the change with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages (which includes the new birth or change of name certificate).