Registering and changing a child's name

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    A birth certificate is the official record of a child's name. In Queensland, all births must be registered in the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and once registered you will be issued with a birth certificate.

    Usually, parents can agree on the name recorded on the birth certificate, but if you can't agree, or you want to change your child's name at a later stage, there are legal options available.

    Many Indigenous Australians don't have a birth certificate. The National Aboriginal Birth Certificate program offers a free birth certificate service for eligible applications. Find out more.

    Disputes about naming your child

    You can't register a birth without the other parent’s signature unless they're dead, their location is unknown or the father's identity is unknown. If you can't agree on the name to be registered, then either parent can apply to the Magistrates Court for a decision. If neither parent applies to court, then the Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar can choose a name to go on the birth certificate.

    Changing my child's name

    To officially change a child’s name on their birth certificate, both parents must apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In Queensland, this can be done if the child’s birth (or adoption) was registered here, or if your child was born outside of Australia, but now lives in Queensland. If their birth is registered in another Australian state, you'll need to contact that state’s registry.

    If your child is 12 years or older, they must agree to the name change, unless approved by the court. The following limits apply for changing your child's name:

    • First names—once in the first 12 months after birth and then once before the child reaches 18.
    • Surnames—once every 12 months.

    If you're the only parent shown on the birth certificate, or if the other parent is dead, you can change the name in the registry on your own.

    It's not illegal to start using another name for your child without officially registering the name change unless a court has ordered the child be known by a specific name.

    Disputes about name changes

    A child’s name is one of the important issues parents are expected to agree about. If one parent starts to use a new name for the child without the other's agreement, they can apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for a decision about what name can be used.

    If the dispute is about registering a name change, then either parent can apply to the Magistrates Court for an order for what name should go on the register.

    Get legal advice if you have a dispute about your child's name.

    National Aboriginal Birth Certificate program

    About 300,000 Australian's don't have their birth registered, and about 500,000 don't have a birth certificate. Without this document you may experience difficulty in accessing services such as opening bank accounts, joining sporting clubs, enrolling in school, applying for a job, getting a driver licence or voting.

    The Pathfinders Aboriginal Birth Certificate Program helps Aboriginal Australians who don't have birth certificates. A free Birth certificate is available for Aboriginal applicants aged between 0 and 21 who meet the following criteria:

    • they are preparing to attend pre-school
    • they are preparing to attend primary school
    • they are preparing to attend secondary school
    • they are transitioning from school to the workforce
    • they are transitioning from school into further education
    • they were born in NSW, Qld, ACT or Vic.

    A parent of children or young people applying is also eligible. Find out whether you're eligible for a free birth certificate.

    Do I need legal advice?

    You may need legal advice if you have a dispute with the other parent about your child's name and are considering applying to the Magistrates Court for an order.

    You don't need legal advice to change your own name.

    How to get legal advice

    We may give legal advice about applying to the Magistrates Court for an order about a child's name. We don't give legal advice to adults wanting to change their name.

    The following organisations may be able to help:

    Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.

    Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

    Family Relationship Advice Line gives information about the family law system in Australia.

    Who else can help?

    These organisations may also be able to help. They don't give legal advice.

    Queensland Courts have detailed information about Queensland courts.

    Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages record life events in each state and territory, including registration of births, deaths, marriages and adoptions. Contact the registry to officially change a name on a birth certificate.

    Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

    Last updated 27 January 2023