Key points

  • Parents must register the birth of their child within 60 days. A child cannot be registered without a first and last name 
  • Where the parents can’t agree on the child’s name, legislation enables the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to decide the child’s name. This Name dispute policy sets out the framework for this process.

Policy objectives

  • Clearly define the responsibility of parents to agree on a child’s name
  • Outline the process if mediation fails
  • Provide information regarding the Registrar’s power to assign a name
  • Provide advice on how to appeal a decision made by the Registrar 
  • Outline the legislation supporting this policy.

What the parents must do

When parents can’t agree on the child’s name, they must:

  1. Satisfy the Registrar that they can’t agree on the child’s name
  2. Choose a pathway for determining the name.

Satisfy the Registrar that parents can’t agree on the child’s name

The Registrar will be satisfied that parents are unable to agree on the child's name if: 

  • There is no agreed name on the Birth Registration Statement (BRS), and 

  • There has not been successful mediation.

No agreed name on the BRS

‘No agreed name’ means either of the following.

Completed BRS No completed BRS
The BRS is submitted and signed by both parents and records different names for the child One parent has not completed the relevant section of the BRS but submits a statutory declaration (External link) stating:
  • That they are a parent of the child
  • that the parents are unable to agree on the name which should be given to the child, and
  • what name they want the child to have.

No successful mediation

In addition to one of the above, the Registry must have offered the parents mediation at the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria and:

  • At least one parent has refused mediation, or
  • Mediation has not resulted in the parents agreeing about their child’s name.

In certain circumstances parents will not be offered mediation and the pathway will continue.

Choose a pathway for determining the child’s name

When the parents disagree about a child’s name, the Registrar will ask them to choose one of the two statutory options for determining a name. The options are:

  1. Apply to the County Court for an order to the Registrar about the name
  2. Ask the Registrar to assign the child a name.

The parents should respond within 14 days, so that the birth can be registered without undue delay.

If the parents choose different options:

  • The preference for a Court Order will take precedence
  • The parent who intends to seek a Court Order must provide evidence of this – for example, a copy of instructions to a solicitor, including evidence of Court date – within the 14 days 
  • Should the parents not respond within 14 days, it is assumed that the preference is for the Registrar to assign a name.

The Registrar’s policy for assigning a name

If the pathway involves the Registrar assigning a child’s name, in general, the Registrar will assign the name as follows:

  • The first names preferred by each parent, in alphabetical order
  • No ‘middle’ names unless the parents agree about the middle names. If there is no agreement on the middle name, the second first name (referred to above) will be used as a middle name
  • A surname consisting of the surnames of both parents, in alphabetical order and hyphenated.

However, the Registrar has discretion, and may give consideration to other factors, for example:

  • Evidence of the child being known by a certain name within the community 
  • Potential for the child to be ridiculed if given the proposed name(s)
  • Maintaining consistency between sibling surnames (for children of both parents).

Appealing the decision

If the name was assigned by the Registrar, without being directed to do so by a Court, either parent may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for review of the Registrar’s decision. They must do so within 28 days of (whichever is the later of):

  • The announcement of the assigned name
  • Provision of the reasons for the name being assigned.

Where a name was assigned by a County Court Order, the parents can appeal to the Supreme Court.

Legislative framework

The Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 states:

Section 22: Name of child

(1) The birth registration statement must state the name of the child.
(2) However, the Registrar may assign a name to the child if — 
(b) the birth registration statement is lodged by both parents of the child and they satisfy the Registrar that they are unable to agree on the child's name.

Section 23: Dispute about child's name 

(1) If there is a dispute between parents about a child's name, either parent may apply to the County Court for a resolution of the dispute.
(2) On an application under subsection (1), the County Court may— 
(a) resolve the dispute about the child's name as the Court considers appropriate; and
(b) order the Registrar to register the child's name in a form specified in the order.