Whilst CHANGING YOUR NAME through marriage is not compulsory, it’s a custom that still occurs today. Most heterosexual women choose to take their husband’s surname once they’re married. In some states married women can apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for a marriage certificate as evidence of a name change, and in some states they don’t even need to do this. Now that we have marriage equality, the process for lesbians is also pretty straightforward if they too want to change their surname following a marriage.
If you aren't married, having the same last name can also help create the feeling that you are a legitimate family. There are many ways to go about this. Some lesbians are happy to take on their partner’s last name, some couples decide to take on a new last name making up the name entirely, and others choose to hyphenate both their names. It’s a good idea to think about all the different possibilities to see how each of you feel about them before making a final decision.
How do you change your last name
If you are married, you do not need to formally change your name with the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages. If you want to take your wife's surname, you just need to show your marriage certificate as evidence to have personal documentation such as your driver's licence and passport changed to your married surname.
If you are not married, to change your last name legally, you will need to lodge a Change of Name application with the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in your state or territory.
You are legally entitled to change your last name and your first name if you want, as long as you are not doing so to commit an offence (i.e. fraud). You can use a new name without taking any formal steps; however, occasions will arise where you will be asked to provide proof of the name change (for example as proof of identity or to obtain a passport). For this reason, you should record your new name by registering a Change of Name at the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in your state.
The Change of Name form has a section that requires you to write the reason for changing your name. It is fine just to write “my partner and I would like to have the same last name”. You don’t need to write a story or explain the reason in great detail. Just say you want to have the same last name as your partner.
In NSW, as in most states, you will need to pay a registration fee, which includes the registration of the Change of Name and the issue of a Standard Certificate. You will probably need to return all of your original certificates with your application, including any Birth or Change of Name Certificates and extracts.
If you were born in NSW, you can choose to receive either a new Birth Certificate and/or a Change of Name certificate. If you choose both, this will cost you more money. Your new birth certificate will be amended to show details of your previous name/s. So there will still be a record of this.
If you were born overseas, only a Change of Name certificate can be issued, not a new Birth Certificate.
If you and your partner have a child together after you have changed your name, your new last name will be listed on your child’s birth certificate. Your previous name will be listed as your maiden name.
Changing your child's last name
You may be in a family situation where you’d like to change your child’s name. Perhaps you had your child on your own and now you are entering into a new committed relationship. Or perhaps you have separated from your partner.
In NSW if you want to change your child’s name, either first or last, both parents will need to sign an application to register a Change of Name for your child (a child is a person under the age of 18 years).[i]
If both parents cannot make a joint application (i.e. you and your partner or ex-partner can’t agree), you will need to contact the registry in your state to discuss your circumstances or see a lawyer, as you may need a court order if the other parent does agree to your child’s name being changed.
Some states require the child’s consent to the change of name if they are over a certain age, i.e. Tasmania requires the consent of a child to the name change if they are over 12 years of age.[ii]
Your child’s birth registration will be amended to include the change of their name and will note on the bottom of the birth certificate what their former name was.
If you have changed your child’s name and you have also changed your name, be aware that your new name will not be listed on your child’s new birth certificate. Your child’s new birth certificate shows your legal name at the time of your child’s birth.
For more information, go to:
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory
SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS
If you and/or your partner want to change your surnames so they are the same, there are many possible choices.
To make a legal name change for you, your partner, or your children, you must contact the registry in your state and be prepared to provide your original certificates and pay a fee.
If you cannot agree on your child’s name, you may need to obtain a court order.
[i] s 28 Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (NSW)
[ii]Department of Justice: Births, Deaths and Marriages (2016), viewed 4 October 2016,
Note to readers: This information is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained here is as up to date and accurate as possible, the law is complex and constantly changing (particularly relating to same-sex parenting) and readers are advised to seek legal advice in relation to their situation.