We have all heard of celebrities gifting their children unusual and often strange names.

Think Kal-EL (Nicholas Cage), Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone), and North (Kanye West).

In Australia, there are laws that govern what we can name our children.

Most parents are sensible about what they call their children and these laws are not designed to take away a parent’s right to name their children. The laws exist to protect children, to ensure they are given an appropriate name – a child’s sense of identity and self-worth is strongly connected to their name.

Firstly, it is important to note that giving a child a name is a legal requirement under Australian law. You don’t have to have a chosen a name before the child is born or even straight after they are born, but parents must register their child’s birth within 60 days and that includes giving them a name.

Some parents follow family, religious or cultural traditions or use a baby name book for inspiration. Others come up with their own creative names that may involve unusual spellings or unique pronunciations. While some of these names might be unusual, most will be accepted under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act. However, a registrar can refuse to register a name for a number of reasons, including:

  • It is offensive or obscene.
  • Is too long
  • Contains symbols or numbers
  • It is not in the public interest
  • Is an official title or rank

In Australia, names including Princess, Lord and Anarchy have all been rejected. See a list of 46 baby names that have been rejected by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages here.

Across the Tasman, in New Zealand a couple who named their daughter Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii also ended up in court in 2008 and were ordered to change her name because it was embarrassing and made a fool of the child.

When it comes to whose surname a child will take, most Australians still opt for tradition. The majority of children still take their father’s surnames. But there is absolutely no legal requirement to do this.

If a child is born to an unmarried couple, the child will be registered with the mother’s surname, unless both parents agree to use the father’s surname.

If a couple divorces, a parent has the right to apply to have their child’s name change. But it’s not an easy process. The permission of the child’s other parent needs to be obtained before any change can go ahead and if no permission is granted, an application can be made to the Family Court.

Ultimately, the court will have to decide if the name change is in the child’s interests.

 

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