Last updated 14 June 2016
Assuming and using a new name
A person over the age of 18 years is entitled to change their name by simply assuming and using the name they wish to adopt. This is perfectly legal.
This informal process, while easy and inexpensive, does have some significant disadvantages. An informally assumed new name is not registered with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and a new or amended birth certificate cannot be obtained that reflects the assumed new name.
Most government departments, banks and similar institutions, and some employers may require evidence of a person’s identity. The types of proof generally required (e.g. a birth certificate, driver licence or passport) will not, however, reflect the new name. In such cases, the bank, government department or other institution may refuse to deal with the person under their informally assumed new name.
Parents may change a child’s name informally by simply calling the child by another name. The assumed new name, however, will not be legally recognised and has the same effect as an adult simply assuming a new name.
The informal assumption of a new name is therefore really only suitable for those instances where a person wishes to be known by friends and family under the new name on an everyday basis, but does not object to their formal registered name being used for official purposes (e.g. obtaining a passport or driver licence, or opening a bank account).
Assumption of spouse’s surname upon marriage
There is no legal obligation upon anyone to adopt their spouse’s name upon marriage.
Where a woman does adopt her husband’s surname, no formal process is required. Generally, all that is required is that she needs to produce a copy of her marriage certificate as evidence that she has adopted her husband’s surname. Most government departments, banks and other institutions will generally amend their records to reflect the new surname. If a hyphenated surname is chosen, it will generally be necessary to formalise the process as explained below.
After divorce, a woman may continue to use her former husband’s name or revert to her maiden name. Generally, when reverting to her maiden name, banks, government departments and other institutions will require production of the woman’s registry-issued birth certificate (as evidence of her original surname) and a copy of the decree nisi (divorce certificate) as evidence that the marriage has ended.
It is also possible in some cases after marriage or divorce to organise and obtain a change of name certificate from the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages if required.