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To change or not to change….. that is the question

As we know the norm has been that when children are born they take on the fathers surname.  After divorce, women sometimes  change their name back to their maiden name or if they remarry, may change their surname to their new partners surname.

If  our children are with us every second weekend, this can then lead to questions and requests around changing the child’s surname too.  Each individual situation is different and you will need to agree or not as your authorization signature is required on the Declaration to Change the Name of a Child from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.  I allowed my daughters name to be changed as my ex wife remarried and had another two daughters in that marriage and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Today, looking back, I wish I had not agreed as it is another loss of connection.  So my suggestion is to consider carefully.

How is the name changed?

A child’s name can be changed if both parents and the child agree.  If the child is too young to understand, the parents can still change the name by both filling in a Declaration to Change the Name of a Child from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry.

If one parent wants to change a child’s name but the other disagrees, the State Magistrates Court can decide. The non-consenting parent can tell the court why they think the child’s name should not be changed.  The court will make a decision based on what it believes is best for the child.  Even where the court makes an order authorizing the change of name of a child, the change must still be registered at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry to be effective.


  1. Gregory says:

    I let my second ex change my sons surname due to a few yrs pressure from the mother , my contact with my son over the last 10 yrs has been minimal,, I wasnt able to discuss it with my son due to his mothers blocking all my attempts, last time I spoke to him he was very keen to spend time together but was stopped by his mother once again, It broke my heart to sign the bit of paper,, its taken many yrs to learn to deal with no contact, I miss him today the same as I did when his mother stopped me seeing him, I believe he was under pressure from his mother to want to change his name, she done the same with my son’s two other brothers so as to not be shunned upon by our society for having three children to three different Dads,, I signed hoping it would relieve the pressure on him from his mother, I send him bday cards every bday using his original birth surname,, I love & miss my son very very much & pray that one day we will be reunited xooo

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Gregory,

    There are many dads out their that understand you and feel your grief. He knows who you are and a surname is just a name, its not DNA. We also get the “agreement to relieve pressure” or to make the road smoother for your son. If you argued the point, your name would be mud and you are trying to not give your ex any reason to use your name in vein which spares your son hearing it. I’m sure you will be rewarded for your efforts one day. Don’t stop your cards on B’day or Christmas. Keep your chin up mate.

  3. Neb-Maat-Re says:

    My ex attempted to change our daughter’s surname without my consent – or even my knowledge. The really sad thing is she had already changed the surname of her son from her first marriage, although she did inform her first ex. In my case, it only came to light when the ex moved and changed our daughter’s school, something I was only told about after the fact. I wasn’t even advised of the new school’s name, and had to ring the old school to find out. The principal initially seemed to have trouble finding my daughter’s details, but eventually called me back with the transfer details. The new school was a dinky country school, but the principal had trouble identifying my daughter’s arrival – until it became evident she was registered under her mother’s surname. This had apparently been done at the old school – the mother just fronted up one day at the office and made the change. The cowardly mongrel at the old school kept that quiet after he realised what had happened. The principal at the new school and the first contact (an old principal) at the new school’s regional office originally tried to convince me the mother was able to do this, but a couple of calls up the chain later and I had the matter corrected. Although it wasn’t his doing, the new principal had to call the ex to tell her about the name being corrected. A lovely welcome to your new (small) school community. I was unable to get an apology from the old principal, or from his Regional Director, although the Deputy Secretary at the Education Department advised me in writing I had received several apologies (Yes, of course I had, that is why I wrote to you stating I hadn’t.)

    Not long after this I had my 11 yo daughter on the phone screaming at me to allow her to change her name legally. When I refused, the phone was hung up abruptly. That was almost 10 years ago, and I have not seen or heard from her since that day. The birthday cards I sent were marked “Return to Sender”.


      I feel your pain my ex-wife has made it impossible for me, we married and change my son’s name and now he is off to the military. It’s okay with his new name but my main focus now is my other three kids. Soon he will be a man and will be faced with many different events in life, I feel like she was a very mean person and has won and in some way it is sad but it happens.

      • Sara says:

        Personally I think a name is like a right of passage (your roots) your DNA I also believe every child should have there dads name on birth certificate even if there not involved unless for protection reasons not only for moral reasons but medical reasons too. Just because someone’s not in your life or have negative/hatred feelings doesn’t change the facts regarding DNA. Since the law changed where you have no parental responsibility unless your name is on the birth certificate has had many repercussions of women denying father rights without no good reason purposely going and registering births behind the fathers backs even when in a relationship for fear of breakdown in future or from people giving others advice to do so and playing god with their child it’s easily corrected with court order providing you can afford it but many cant which is why there queuing up to use services like Jeremy Kyle but that’s another topic and my own personal feelings towards it all I have a lot of respect for adoptive parents and step parents, it’s all great wanting the perfect fairytale of everyone sharing one name like a big happy family but life is not a fairytale and whether you like it or not your biological parents are just that! You may hate your ex today but I think it’s important children know they were born out of love that was there once upon a time! Children have enough pressure put on their shoulders without hearing their parents hating and slagging each other off making them feel conflicted! There’s no wonder there’s a lack of respect in bringing a child into the world these days from one night stands to not even knowing which of the five people they slept with when conceiving or using children as weapons or means of thinking it’s the best and easiest way to get a house/flat and scrounge benefits for income instead of getting off there arses! I’m not talking about everyone obviously but there are so many that do and the more that do it the more children will grow up thinking it’s normal and appropriate and acceptable! There’s too many people conspiring behind people’s backs looking for ways to achieve selfish goals and wants and too many people get hurt in the process! I’d love to have all my children have the same surname (preferably mine lol ) but I wouldn’t do it nor have a need to do it! It’s comman fact that mums go to register births and have name put on certificate automatically but for dads to have a documented DNA recognition stripping them of any rights is happening more and more and can leave children sometimes never knowing where they came from or the truth or have massive emotional harm on the children! If a child wants to do it and is age appropriate for name change ( getting back to subject) then that’s down to the child providing they have access to biological records if ever need be! Gonna shut up now as you can tell I’m quite passionate on this subject! Lol xx there’s enough hate in this world we need more love ❤️

  4. Adrijana says:

    My partners ex changed their daughters surname without his consent, I’m not even sure she’s done it legally. Their daughter is 11 now & she thinks her surname is what she’s been told by her mother. My partner hasn’t said anything but I know it’s killing him, I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do about it…? Any advice?

    • Peter says:

      Hi Adrijana, If she has changed it illegally or forged your partners name on the change papers then she would be in trouble and the name change would not be valid. Is your partners name on the child’s birth certificate as “father”? if it is then they need his signature to change it, if its not then she could change it without his consent. Some situations you just need to weigh up how much emotional energy will be required to deal with it. Your partners child is his child regardless of surname.

  5. Dee says:


    My ex wife is currently suggesting my 4 year old daughter have her name changed from mine to hers. She is basing this on the fact that they are going to be travelling together and it would be safer (or some similar logic). I am against it as I do feel it is a connection to her that will bond us. I currently look after her 2 / 3 nights a week.

    To date we have avoided any legal proceedings and work of a mutal agreement of care. We have been seperated for over 2 years now. For the most part I have given ground on most of the things my ex asks for.

    What are some good points for a daughter to keep her fathers name. She already knows the surname she currently has – so an explanation would be needed as to why it is changing

  6. Yvonne says:

    My son has just found out that his ex partner has chosen to give their daughter the surname of her new partner she is only three years old my son’s name is on the birth certificate and he pays maintenance through the CSA can my son do anything to stop his ex partner doing this I believe the nursery school she goes to has her surname as the new partners many thanks

  7. Peter says:

    Hi Yvonne, it is unfortunate that some people think they can just do anything without consequence. It is illegal to put the wrong name down on any legal documents, she will never be able to get a passport, bank account, drivers license etc etc as her correct name is on her birth certificate and that will not change unless your son signs for a name change by going through the proper process and that sounds unlikely? I would be simply explaining to the ex partner that what she is doing is illegal and a phone call to the nursery, school couldn’t hurt either? At the end of the day you know her correct name and keep on using it and it will all come to a head when one of the above documents needs to be obtained.

  8. Ashley says:

    My mum got remarried when i was 4 years old and my dad agreed to let my mum change my last name, i wish they never did that to me…they took away so much of me, my whole identity…yes think carefully…because my parents didn’t think about me…only themselves…

  9. juanita belz says:

    Hi, my son just got order to appear in court, because his ex wants to change his daughters last name to a hyphenated name. He is against this and wants it kept as it is with his name as the last name. Has anyone been thru this in court , need some tips and suggestions for winning this. he has been thru hell just to see his child , who is now 4 and still dealing with the rubbish that the ex throws at him without now being told her name will get changed

    • Peter says:

      Hi, it is very difficult situation and the courts will look after the child well I am sure. Post this question on Dads Online Facebook page and see what the audience have to say?

  10. Krystal says:

    Hi there, so my divorce should be legal with my ex mid april and so I wanted to change my daughters last name to mine as she spends majority of her time with me. She spends 2 nights a week at her fathers. So the first 3 months of our separation I noticed he never spent any time with her although I let her go to his and his parents house so I was doing my job as her mother to let her see her dad, he chose to spend time out with his friends, with his new partner or other things rather than spend it with my daughter. And that meant his parents where watching her. I still let her go as I feel if he isn’t going to be there than he can prove the type of father he is to her, because if I stopped her from going she would blame me in the end why her dad wasn’t there. As of now it has since been a year and I don’t know what he is like with her but i still let her go because I trust his parents with her.

    So I am considering applying for a name change for my daughter to my maiden name. So whilst we had split up we had still had being seeing each other on and off so now I am pregnant with his baby again but will since we wont be together and baby will be in my care full time i’ve decided to have this baby as my last name. Now I have a big dilemma because I don’t want my daughter to feel like I love her any less as she has a different last name, will this help my case in pursuing a name change for my daughter?

  11. Diana says:

    My ex fiance and I have a son. When i was talking to my ex about signing the forms for our sons full name, he was to tired to bother about it. So i mentioned about it the 3rd time and he stated that because he is a boy he has to take his surname but if he was a girl he doesn’t care whose surname it took. I then asked him who surname would i take when we get married (as the idea was to have a wedding and christening together)? He said he does not care. So i said regardless of what sex our child is it should be worthy of the surname and his even worthy of taking my surname. So he did not fight it at all, signed the document and went to sleep.

    Now my thing is his taking me to court to sort this all out with the separation (property settlement, place our son on watch list and name change), and his requesting that his surname is to be added to our son. I have no problems with that whatsoever as we were not married and his got both blood in him. And i agree it’s just a name. But what gets to me is his lying in the affidavit that i forced him to sign the documents that he requests it would be an embrassement of our child. I think it’s wrong as from birth i have been sole carer of him as after a month old my ex walked out on us, i had on weekly bases asked him to come see his son, but only used that time to fight with me.

    Speaking to my lawyer, she stated by law that the child has both surnames of the parents. Now i don’t know if that is true or not but will have to wait and see. As my court hearing will be coming up soon. So i hope this helps everyone. My thinking his only doing this to hurt me all because i don’t want to be with him after walking out on us 3 times. It was better to be single then be with him for all reasons. But no child should be traumatized because of what happened to the parents. My view father’s don’t give up as your child is worthy of your surname because you married your childs mother for the fact of protecting and providing a health life for your family.

  12. Kirsty says:

    After having my 4 sons absconded by my ex partner, this was 14yrs ago I found my eldest son on MySpace in 2007 but he stopped contact a few more tha later then I got an email. I sent my phone numbers and he called. He told me I was a grandmother.
    He also told me that his 3 brothers surnames had been changed. Not his. Although under further investigation they all go by the surname. My name is he only one on all of their birth certificates. As my ex refused to sign them and then I sent an email to BDM NSW and was informed that he had obtained all 4 birth certificates issued to him only a few months after he’d absconded with them, then 9 yrsater his current wife changed my sons names without my consent, permission and knowledge.
    There were no court orders and after a year and a half I finally get an email from BDM NSW that the name changes were not done legally. I’m currently waiting for an explanation as to why and how they allwowed certificates to be issued 9yrs prior. Unforunately I’m still waiting and I don’t have the money to get lawyer and legal aid are unable to help as its out of their scope they say, another thing is my sons have been told so many lies about me they are really too angry to deal with it all but that won’t stop me loving them. One of my other sons had 2 kids so now I have 3 grandkids.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Kristy,
      Its been along time, I say to Dads that surnames dont mean anything, your their dad by blood and that means more than words. Kristy, its been a long time and the last thing your boys need is for this to all flare up again. I would let the surname go and just concentrate on being easy going with them as it will take some time I imagine to recover connections and if you play it cool, they will see you for who you are and eventually come around.

      Best wishes

      • Milos says:

        I have to say, respecting my heritage, that a persons surname is a integral part of their idendity and sometimes all a man would have to be proud of.
        I have raised my daughters the same way (7&9yrs old) and now my ex had suggested adding her new partners name with a hyphen.
        i naturally rejected the request as I could not disrespect myself not family. If I did, I would be as good as dead to the them.
        Sorry if I’m being long winded, but a name is more than just a name.

  13. doug says:

    My ex left with the two children. She married and changed the kids surnames. Without any consult or agreement from me. This was used as a weapon in the ‘he doesnt care about you’ saga. She fought each and every access, disregarded all court orders etc etc. I have asked her to explain to the kids (older now) that it was wrong to alter their names, illegal as well. Was all that I asked of her as I believe it would assist in mending some issues. ‘Everyone has moved on’ was the response. My question is: To whom should I make the initial complaint as regards her actions? At some stage she must have signed documents, entry into schools, medicare, etc. Thanks for any assist you are able to supply.

  14. Javier Espinoza says:

    Am going through it right now, my 11 year old boy wants to take his stepfather’s last name, as a matter of fact, my son told me tonight that, thats what he wants. His mother has him convinced actually, because when I talk to him he uses the exact same words his mother would use. My dilemma, I was deported back to Ecuador in 2012, leaving me with no much of an option as to what to do….. because there isn’t much I can do since I live “like 12,000 miles” like my son put it. I spent 30 months in an immigration facility fighting to stay in the US however, my son’s emotional state came to a brakedown, so I decided to let them deport me and have my son come visit me in ecuador, however, on july 2012 was the last time I’ve seen him in person, I call him and video call him, but he only answers whenever he feels like it. His mother has manipulated the situation and now I find myself loosing my child….. I’ve read some of the comments and your probably right about “a name just being a name” but where do we leave the pride of our family name? if he barely talks to me now that he still is recognize as my son, how can he talk to me when he’s no longer my legal son………. I need some advice I dont know what to do, can’t go back until my mother’s petition goes through….. I’ve never thougth something like this may happen to me…… worse punishment for all my wrong doings in my adolesence….. and from what am reading because of my current situation he doesnt need my signature to change his…….last name I wonder when the change its done, how long until I see my son again or talk him……..

    • Peter says:

      Hi Javier, That is a difficult situation. Particularly having to live on the other side of the world! Im not sure of the laws in your country but to change a name in Australia there is a formal process of paperwork with both parents needing to sign the name change. Your are right for mentioning “its just a name” and does not in any way change who you are or who his biological dad is. Remember that and try not to worry about things that are out of your control. Be patient and i hope your time comes when your son gets older and understands life is not black and white and see that you tried your best with what you were able to do. Best wishes.

  15. Joe says:

    It might be ‘just a name’ but it is another degree of separation and for some of us it is one of the very few things we have left. I have not seen my children for 7 years due to this alienation and I have seen and hear so many untruths that I cannot fight since it is seen as me attacking my ex by the children.
    My son last week also at 13 asked me to change his name. I said no and he got very annoyed as always if I refuse anything he asked. I still don’t know what to do but the name is one of the very very few things I have left….at 13 I don’t think he is adult enough to realise the ramifications and hurt it causes.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Joe,
      Well said. Its very difficult situation as you don’t want them upset with you either. I like that your hanging onto it. It keeps the connection even if you are not seeing them and then hopefully one day when they have some maturity, they’ll understand.

      • Joe says:

        An annoying thing is that in the UK at least if the child is over 14 and the ex takes the matter to the courts, the court is likely to find for the name change. Over the age of 16 if is pretty much a certainty.
        The schools are also of little help, my children are often refered to me in reports by their assumed name, and even when corrected they are very reluctant to accept the fact.
        Once again the cards are stacked……

        • Peter says:

          Hi Joe, Yes very frustrating M8, The schools should not accept a name change unless they have the proper documentation.
          Very challenging, If it is completely out of your control then try your best to not let it eat into you, just let it go. You don’t want think about it every day of your life. It will be better for your health in the long run. Keep intouch.

          Best wishes

  16. Dyllen says:

    My STEP father changed my surname to his– Papa from Hyde– when I was about six years old and I grew up with the wrong mindset that he is my BIO father. Yeah, it is very dangerous and disgusting growing up with a false name that Alfio isn’t my real father, but it was pinned down on me for so long, it took me a while to realize Alfio had taken most of my rights away ever since he settled into my family’s life. I am NOT a Papa– I am a Hyde.

  17. nana says:

    my grand children’s mother enrolled the children in school under her surname even though their birth certificate had my sons surname as their surname. Now ten years later it is affecting the children as all their school work is not in their legal name and my grandson is in year ten So.she is putting on the pressure to have my son sign to have the children’s name legally changed to her surname

    they have had a very stormy and unhappy breakup Ten years of disagreements over access and the children telling mum things after contact and telling dad things when visiting him It got to the situation where the children would be dropped off at my home and the dad and his new family would have contact at my place Contact has been all over the place with periods of no contact for months as the parents not being able to work together The father being nasty and the mother being manipulative

    She has put on the paperwork to change their names that the children have no parental love for their father and he has had next to no contact with the children in ten years and his son wants to join the army with her well respected surname

    How does she think us a part of her children’s family feel reading that comment Sujesting our family name is less then respectable. His Aunty in the Air Force for over twenty years, an uncle with the cross for bravery from America and one also from Australia for Vietnam great grandfather was in World War One

    And what about the rest of his family on his dad’s side I have been there since their birth and have always played a big part in their lives The boy was named after his grandfather

    This just does not affect the children it also affects the thoughts and feelings of members of the fathers family and the fathers other children in his marriage now

    And just to cover up the mothers illegal choice to put her children in school in her name not their legal name all those years ago

  18. nana says:

    When you change the child’s surname to the mothers is the father taken off the birth certificate
    Also does it take the fathers rights

  19. nathan sabin says:

    I just need to now if it’s possible for mum to change my son last name wive out me knowing ?

    • Peter says:

      HI Nathan,
      If you are on the birth certificate she will not be able to change your sons name legally without you knowing. There is documentation that will need to be signed by you(the father) for it to be legitimate.

  20. nathan sabin says:

    But if she would forged my signature how would I now she changed it ?

  21. Chris says:

    I am having an issue of ego I think. My 5 year old daughters last name is my Name-Moms name. However, last fall, mom got married and wants to change the name to my name -her married name. I say no, as step dad has no rights to my daughter and isnt her guardian. There is a long backstory of this behavior and thoughts from stepdad being forced on me. Is this just egotistical, and can courts over rule?

    • Peter says:

      Hi Chris, although it is possible to change a child’s name in court, it will be important to show good reason. See the response from our Family Law friend of Dads Online…Theoretically, a court could decide in favour of a name change if there is a good argument for it. Depends on whether the mum chooses to initiate proceedings in the Court to try to obtain same.

  22. Peter Carr says:

    I wish I had read this two years ago.
    My wife (we have been having marital troubles for a while) has managed to infulence my daughter (19) to change her surname to her mother’s maiden name and to change her first name to the one her mother liked as choice number 2 when our daughter was born. We didn’t choose it because I really did not like the name so we agreed on another.
    So now my daughter will have changed both her names to her mother’s preferred options.
    I am devastated but can’t say anything for fear of upsetting my daughter. She has had a rough time and needs my total support.
    I can’t say anything to my wife about my suspicions as we are trying to patch up the marriage and I have no proof of my suspicions.
    This is crap.

  23. Elgin Allsopp says:

    My son and his fiance have just had a daughter born just 5 days ago.They announced to me last night,although I’m thrilled for them ,they have named her with the finances surname and not my sons surname. Saying it will be easier for her other son, who is my sons stepson. My new granddaughter’s surname has also been put on the birth certificate. Im very worried that if in the future they split, where does this legally place my son in her life. Will he be denied his rights as the father because his daughter doesn’t bare his surname. If so, is there anything that can be done to stop this from happening. Just to make things clear, my granddaughter was conceived through IVF, so the proof he is the biological father us there. This has upset me very much, and although it’s their decision, I can’t help fearing the worst.

  24. Peter says:

    Hi Elgin,
    Traditionally you are correct, the surname usually is in the father name but many traditions today are no longer used. Your son is still the father and so long as his name is on the birth certificate, he is the legal father. He has full rights of an equal parent and regardless of what surname the child has plays no part on legal rights as a father. If the child took on his surname, the mother has full rights for the child, just as he does now with the child using his mothers surname. Try not to worry about something you can’t control and also that doesn’t really matter? Just be happy and positive for them and get on with helping them as a grandmother. Best wishes