What’s in a name?

Earlier this year, a Court in Italy ruled that children will automatically have the last names of both parents unless they agree otherwise. It remains to be seen how this will affect circumstances where one parent is absent or perhaps a perpetrator of severe domestic violence, though it would seem likely that future laws will be created to allow only one parent to select the child’s name in exceptional circumstances.
In Australia, there are limited restrictions on a baby’s name even if both parents agree on what it will be. Offensive or obscene names such as ‘4real’ have been refused registration along with any name that is otherwise an official title such as Queen, Corporal or Prime Minister.
What happens though when the parents can’t agree on the name? Well, it gets a little complicated but thankfully our legal system has a solution.
A child’s name falls into one of five special categories that are seen as major long-term decisions. The other categories include religion, schooling, major medical decisions and where a child lives, if it significantly affects the ability for them to spend time with both parents.
Any decision in one of these categories must be made jointly by both parents or otherwise authorised by a Judge, though things can get murky if only one parent is actually involved, or getting a signature from the other is impossible. However, when Mum and Dad are both adopting their parental responsibility, our law requires them to reach a decision together on something as important as their child’s name. If no agreement can be reached, it’s time for mediation and if all else fails, they’re off to Court and a Judge will ultimately make the decision after listening to each parent give their reasons for why they like a certain name and cannot possibly live with what the other parent wants.
Thankfully, a Judge being forced to choose a child’s name is rare but it will be interesting to see whether the trend emerging out of Italy of both parents’ last names being included as the default position spreads to the rest of the world. It’s at least an improvement to the parents who tried (and failed) to call their children Robocop or Ikea.

Joshua Noble is a Solicitor at Zande Law, North Lakes, practicing in the area of Family Law. To contact Joshua for advice phone 3385 0999.

The information in this newsletter is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.