What happens if parents can’t agree on a child’s name?

parents can’t agree on child’s name

By cropped Clara Suki

· Read time: 3 minutes

If parents can’t agree on a name for their child, and are unable to resolve the issue themselves, they should consider mediation. If mediation is unable to help the parents agree, then they could seek the intervention of The Court.

A child’s name as a “major long-term decision”

Under section 4 of the Family Law Act 1975, the naming of a child falls under the category of a “major long-term decision.”

Other major long-term decisions include: 

Because naming falls within this category, both parents with parental responsibility regarding the child will need to be consulted when making decisions about naming the child. 

Generally, both parents have equal shared parental responsibility for a child, meaning consensus is required for major decisions – including naming

Generally, both parents will have equal shared parental responsibility for a child. This means that each parent will have to consult the other before making any major life decisions for the child. This will involve making a genuine effort to come to a joint decision between both parents. 

The law puts in place a presumption for equal shared parental responsibility and this presumption is only displaced in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances include the presence of domestic violence in the family. Hence, this may mean that for some families, only one parent has sole parental responsibility for a child. It would follow that in these circumstances, the parent with sole responsibility will decide the major long-term decisions of the child – including naming the child.

Court orders for naming a child 

If an agreement cannot be reached between the parents through mediation, they can seek an order from the Family Court. The Court will then be able to determine the issue and set out a legally binding solution. The Court could also choose to alternatively dismiss a parent’s application to change a child’s name if the child has already been given one. 

Prior cases show what the Court will have regard to in making a decision about naming a child. This includes considerations such as: 

  • The short and long-term effects the child will suffer if their name is changed
  • The degree of identification the child has with each name
  • Any identity confusion that will likely occur as a result of a name change 
  • The short and long-term advantages the child will accrue for each name
  • The time the child has with each parent
  • Any embarrassment or any other negative emotions the child will experience.  

Ultimately, it is important for the Court to consider whether a particular name will be in the best interests of the child. If a parent proposes a name with particular cultural significance, they will likely be allowed to bring in expert evidence. 

If you need any assistance regarding a family dispute matter arising from naming your child please feel free to reach us via the contact form.

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