"CHILD’S BEST INTEREST IS KEY"
20 Mar 2012
Lisa O’Neill is special counsel in family law at local firm, Murdoch Lawyers.
Separated families, like all families, are often faced with issues that need to be resolved regarding their children. This week’s article looks at the situation of a parent who wishes to change their child’s surname upon remarriage.
Best Interests of Child
The best interests are the overarching consideration for all decisions that affect your child. The best interests of your child are superior to either of the parent’s wishes.
Parents can agree to a change in the child’s surname. If agreement cannot be reached and a parent believes that it is in the best interests of the child to take a new name, then that parent may need to apply to the Court for a determination.
What Does A Court Look At?
The Court will look at a number of issues when deciding what is best for the child, including the short term and long term effects of the change in name, the impact on the child’s relationship with each parent and whether any difficulties arise from the child having a different surname to the mother.
Finding a Solution
Some families find a middle ground in a hyphenated surname, to save the stress and cost of a Court Application. Ideally, parents who have separated should try to resolve any parenting issues themselves or with the assistance of a Family Dispute Resolution practitioner.
Changing names (like other big issues in a child’s life) are best made by parents who have their child’s best interest at the forefront of their decisions. Reaching agreement may not be easy but at the end of the day, it is better for your family – and your back pocket – if you can.
You should contact a solicitor to discuss your particular parenting issues. Seeking legal advice does not mean you will end up in Court. There is no “one size fits all” solution to parenting issues. Each family is unique and the particular circumstances need to be weighed up in each case. Speaking to a family lawyer may help you understand your position and that of the other parent – and may assist you to reach a compromise, that is ultimately in the best interests of your child.
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