Many people change their names without taking any formal action, as there is no law to prevent people using any name they choose. A change of name may be established by repute or usage, however there may be difficulties when using the name for official purposes if the name change has not been properly registered.
Any person over the age of 18 years can change his or her name by obtaining the appropriate form from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry and paying the fee.
The completed form must be signed and witnessed in the presence of a Justice of the Peace and lodged with a certified copy of the applicant's birth certificate and two forms of identification. Registration takes five working days and a registration certificate can then either be collected from the Registry or arrangements can be made for it to be posted to the applicant.
There is a fee to register a change of name, which includes a Change of Name Certificate or an amended Birth Certificate. If a person is unable to visit the Registration Office, they can telephone 131 882 to discuss alternatives and further information about what is required is available on the sa.gov.au website.
There are additional requirements that must be met for a "restricted person" (such as a prisoner, or person subject to certain home detention or extended supervision orders) to be able to change their name. Such requirements are contained in Part 4, Division 2 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (SA).
If parents of a child want to change the child's name, the name change can be registered by lodging the required forms with the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry. In situations where one parent wishes to change a child's name, but the other parent does not consent, an application may be made to SACAT seeking an order that the name be changed, see: Changing a Child's Name. Fees apply for both the application to SACAT and the application to the Registry.
Change of name on marriage
There is no law requiring a woman to take her husband's surname on marriage, or vice versa. If a person does decide to adopt their partner's name, no formal registration of the change is needed. Generally, it is sufficient for a person to inform the relevant agencies and institutions of the marriage and the change of name. Sometimes (such as when applying for a passport) it may be necessary to produce the marriage certificate. It is also legal for a person to keep their premarital names for professional or business affairs while using their married names in their private lives.
Change of name on separation or divorce
A person may choose to keep their partner's name after the marriage has been dissolved, or they may go back to using their premarital name. There is no need for a person to wait until the divorce is final before changing their name. A person who remarries may adopt their new partner's surname or use their first partner's name, or their premarital name.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.