Factsheet: Changing your name

Summary

This factsheet contains information about:

  • how to change your name
  • prohibited names
  • marriage and changing your name
  • naming a child
hand writing

This information relates to laws in Victoria, Australia.

Legally, you can take on a new name simply by using it consistently. This factsheet explains the law around changing your name including what names are allowed and what are the formal requirements.

How to change your name

As long as you do not take on your new name for a criminal purpose, you are free to call yourself what you like and to use your name whenever you like. Some religions have rules about the way their members can change their names, but these rules are not part of the law.

To make your chosen name legal, you do not need to fill in any documents, but many government departments will ask you for proof in writing of your name change. If you are over 18, were born in Victoria and need proof in writing of your name change, you should do these two things:

  • Get a form to apply to register your name change. You can get this form from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • Fill out the form. When this is done, you will need to hand in the form at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. When you hand it in, you will need to have documents with you that prove your identity (such as a passport or driver’s licence). You will need someone who has known you for at least 12 months to be a ‘guarantor’ of your identity. This person will be asked whether you really are who you say you are. Your guarantor will also sign your photograph to say that it really is a photo of you.

To register your name change, you will have to pay a fee of $72.20. You will have to pay another $31.80 (plus postage) if you also need a certificate. This is how much the fees were on 1 July 2016. However, the fees change each year, so it is a good idea to check with the Registry before you pay.

People born overseas

If you were born overseas and want to register a change of name, there are some extra rules that apply to you. You will need to show proof:

  • that you are allowed to stay in Australia for as long as you like
  • that you have lived in Victoria for at least 12 months, and
  • of the place where you were born.

Tip: You can prove that you are allowed to stay in Australia with a citizenship certificate, Australian passport or proof of Australian permanent residency visa. You can prove that you live in Victoria with a driver’s licence, gas, water or electricity bills, or bank statements. You can prove where you were born with a birth certificate or passport.

Prohibited names

The Registrar can stop you from registering a name that is a ‘prohibited name’. A name might be prohibited if:

  • it is obscene or offensive (for example, if it includes a swear word)
  • it is too hard to use as a name because it is too long, or contains symbols that do not have sounds (for example, #), or
  • the Registrar thinks that allowing the name would be against the public interest.

Tip: You cannot change your name on the Register more than once in any 12-month period or more than three times in your life. In very unusual or special circumstances, for example if your personal safety is at risk, the Registrar can waive this rule.

The Registrar has to let the Chief Commissioner of Police know if certain sex offenders want to change their names.

Let people know

When you change your name, you should let government organisations know. This includes your local council, VicRoads (if you have a driver's licence), the Commonwealth Electoral Commission, Australian Passport Office (if you have a passport), Australian Taxation Office (on your next tax return), Commissioner of Land Tax (if you own a house), your bank, superannuation, insurance and medical insurance providers, telephone, electricity or gas companies, and anyone else who uses your name for their bills or records.

If you work, then don’t forget to tell your employer.

Tip: A will is valid even if the person who made it has changed their name.

Marriage

Sometimes when a woman gets married she chooses to change her name to her husband’s, but no law says she has to. If she wants, she can keep her maiden name or combine her own surname with her husband’s. Her husband could also choose to change his name.

If a woman has used her husband’s name on their marriage certificate and wants to go back to using her maiden name, all she has to do is start using her maiden name again. This is because she will still have proof of her maiden name: it will still be on her birth certificate. But again, it is important to let people know.

Naming a child

You can register a child under any name, not just under the name of one or both of the parents. If the name you want is a prohibited name or if the Registrar can see that the parents can’t agree on a name, then the Registrar can give a name to the child.

If there is a dispute between the parents about a child's name, either parent can apply to the Federal Magistrates Court to resolve the dispute. The court can make an order asking the Registrar to register the child with a particular name. No specific law deals with the court’s power to change a child's name, but the court can change the name if it decides it would be in the child’s best interests.

Changing a child’s name

A person who is less than 18 years old cannot register a change to their name unless they are married or have been married. The parents of a child under the age of 18 can apply to register a change of the child’s name. One parent can apply to register the child’s name change if that parent is the only one named in the child’s birth registration in Victoria.

A change in the name of a child who is 12 years or older cannot be registered without the child’s consent. This means the child has to agree to having their name changed. The Registrar can waive this rule if the child can’t understand the meaning and implications of the name change.

Most cases involving changing a child's name are heard in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Family Court. This will be so where the child's parents were married at the time when the child was named. The court won’t let you change the child’s name unless it thinks that it is in the child’s best interests. The Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court have sometimes decided to let a child’s name be changed, or to stop the name from being changed, or to change the child’s name back to something they were called before.

If you adopt a child, then you can also register a new name for them. This applies no matter whether the child was adopted under local laws or under foreign laws.

The County Court might be an appropriate place to go to have a child’s name changed if you want the change for a reason that is not related to a family law matter.

Changing registration of details about parents

If the parents apply together, the Registrar can include some information about the identities of the child’s parents. The application can be made by one parent if the other parent is dead or cannot be found. One parent can change the registered information about the child’s parents if the Registrar thinks that the other parent would agree that the new information is true.

Contacts and further information

County Court of Victoria

250 William Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: 8636 6510
Web: www.countycourt.vic.gov.au

Federation of Community Legal Centres

(for referral to your nearest service)
Tel: 9652 1500
Web: www.communitylaw.org.au

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Ground Floor, 595 Collins Street
Melbourne 3000
Tel: 1300 369 367
Web: www.bdm.vic.gov.au/home/change+of+name/index.html

Victoria Legal Aid

Tel: 1300 792 387
Locations: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/contact-us/our-offices
Web: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Acknowledgments

This factsheet was based on an earlier Law Handbook factsheet.

Victoria Law Foundation acknowledges the assistance of Virginia Wise.

This page was last updated on March 15, 2017