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Disputes over children's names

It is not uncommon in family law matters, that there is a dispute over a child's surname.

As in all other parenting disputes before the Court, the Court will then make a decision on the child's surname, based on the best interest of the child. Section 60CC of the Family Law Act sets out what the Court must take into account in determining what is in a child's best interest. Each case turns on its own facts but there is a significant likelihood that the child will end up with the hyphenated surname of both its parents.

When there are no Court proceedings, the dispute can be decided by the Registrar, of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. If the mother lodges a Birth Registration Application with the Registry but the father has not signed the Application, the Registry will provide the father with an amended Birth Registration Application. This allows the father to make Application to the Registry, including with respect to the surname. The Registrar can record either of the names of the parents on the child's Birth Certificate or a hyphenated name. If an Application has already been made to a Court exercising Family Law jurisdiction however, seeking an order with respect to the child's surname, then the Registrar will not make a decision and will await the Court's determination.

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