Last updated 13 December 2016

After a child is born in Queensland, a Birth Registration Form must be completed and promptly lodged with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 (Qld) (BDMR Act)). If the parents are not married to each other, both parents must normally sign the declaration on the form to ensure the father’s details are recorded on the birth certificate. Where the father is unknown or uncooperative, the birth may be registered without showing the name of the father. This can have implications for other family law disputes.

A child’s natural father may be added to a child’s birth certificate at a later date by both parents completing the necessary form at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There are penalties for registering false information and for failing to register a birth (ss 8, 50 BDMR Act).

Impact of the Surrogacy Act

The Surrogacy Act 2010 (Qld) (Surrogacy Act) makes altruistic surrogacy arrangements in Queensland lawful, but it remains unlawful for anyone to enter into a commercial (fee-paying) surrogacy arrangement. Payment of the birth mother’s reasonable expenses (e.g. medical fees) associated with the surrogacy is all that is allowed. The birth parents of a child born under a surrogacy arrangement are obliged to register the child’s birth in accordance with s 18 of the Surrogacy Act.

Disputed surname for a child

The BDMR Act allows both parents to apply to enter the child’s surname in the register. The child’s name can be registered under:

  • the father’s surname
  • the mother’s surname
  • a surname formed by combining the surnames of mother and father in any separated order or joined by a hyphen.

When parents cannot agree, the Magistrates Court (or the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court) may determine disputes between parents. The Family Court or Federal Circuit Court can make an order restraining a parent from using or allowing the use of any other surname.

The Family Court has laid down some guiding principles. The best interests of the child is paramount, so the likely effect that the use of a given or proposed name may have on the child must be considered, as well as the effect on the child’s relationship with each parent. The court will not assume that the father’s surname will prevail. The court will consider a number of factors, including:

  • the child’s welfare
  • any confusion about identity and embarrassment suffered by the child
  • the effect on the child’s relationship/contact with the father
  • the short and long-term effects of name changes
  • the degree to which a child identifies with a particular name.

The court will not normally intervene in these matters unless a change has been made without the second parent’s consent, and the change does not promote the child’s best interests. A court will also not necessarily always entertain the use of a hyphenated name as a compromise.

Registration of a child’s name upon adoption

Upon legal adoption, a new birth certificate is issued showing the child’s new name.