Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.
Two parents told the Family Court of Australia that the father wanted to call their son “Vader” as a tribute to the Star Wars character Darth Vader.
The couple eventually settled on a more conventional first name for their child. But they still ended up in the Family Court, trying to resolve the full name by which the boy would be known.
“The question of what name the child would be given by the parents had caused considerable difficulty between the parties,” Justice William Johnston said in his judgment, delivered in Sydney.
So what is the law in relation to the naming of a child?
In Australia, parents can name their child whatever they want. Under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act a registrar can refuse to register a name if:
- It is obscene or offensive
- Cannot be established by repute or usage
- If it’s too long
- If it contains symbols without phonetic significance, such as an exclamation or question mark.
- Is contrary to public interest
- Contains an official title or rank recognised in Australia such as King, Lady, Father, Sir or Admiral.
Basically, if you wanted to name your child, Queen Marg@ret, it won’t get approved. However, a name like ‘Vader’ would be able to be registered.
Once you’ve decided on your baby’s first name, you’ll need to choose their second name too.
Traditionally, Australian children have taken their father’s last name. However, they can also take their mother’s last name. Some parents will go for a hyphenated combination of both surnames, which is fine if they’re both short names but could be a potential burden if they’re too long.
How to register your baby’s name
You must register the birth of a child within 60 days, so you have plenty of time to decide on a child’s name.
To register a birth, get a Birth Registration Statement (BRS) from the hospital that the baby was born from. You just need to complete the form to register the child’s birth and name with Births Deaths and Marriages.
A Birth Registration Statement doesn’t automatically give your child a birth certificate. You need to apply for a birth certificate separately.
Changing a name after Divorce
If you have the permission of both parents, you are only required to complete an application form with the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages in order to change the name of the child. However, if you do not have the consent of both parents, you’ll need to make an application to the Federal Circuit of Australia.
The other parent can then ask the court to not change the name.
The court will then consider if it’s in the best interest of the child to have their name changed.