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This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.
How to change your name within New Zealand
There are various reasons why you may want to change your name. This may be done informally or formally.
If you wish, you may simply start using another name. But if this is not satisfactory for you, you may formally change your name by a statutory declaration.
Changes of name are governed by the BIRTHS, DEATHS, AND MARRIAGES REGISTRATION ACT 1995.
Changing your name formally by statutory declaration
To change your name formally you will need to register a statutory declaration with the NZ Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
To do this you must -
- be at least 18, or
- be 16 or 17, and be married or in a civil union
You can obtain the necessary form for the statutory declaration from the Registry. The Registry staff will take and witness the declaration at the Registry office. You will need to pay a fee.
There may be limitations as to what name you can choose.
What if I'm under 18?
If you are under 18 and not married or in a civil union, you can change your name with the consent of your parents or guardians. In this case they make the statutory declaration, not you.
But if you are 16 or over, the declaration must be accompanied by your written consent for the name change.
Changing the name of your children
Parents may formally change the name of a child who is under 18 and not married or in a civil union. This is done by a statutory declaration. (The process of making the statutory declaration is the same as in changing your own name: see above.)
However, if the child is 16 or 17 the parents will need the child's written consent, which must be deposited with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages along with the statutory declaration.
You may change the name of a child under two without making a statutory declaration. Instead you need only make a written request to Births, Deaths and Marriages. There is a form for this. You will have to pay a fee.
A common reason to consider a name change is where a stepfather would like his stepchildren to have his name. This may be done by formal adoption (see How to get an adoption order) or by a statutory declaration (see above). Changing the stepchild's name by statutory declaration will require the consent of both parents.
Changing the name of a child is a matter of guardianship (see How to be a guardian). Therefore if there is any dispute you may need to go to court. The court will look at what is in the best interest of the child; generally this will mean that if there is a close relationship between the child and the natural father, the child will be likely to retain his or her birth name.
Inform those who need to know
Whether you change your name formally or informally, you will need to inform all relevant people and organisations, such as your employer, bank, post office and any credit card companies.
It is also important that you correct any formal documents, such as your driver's licence, your passport and your name on the electoral roll.
It is not necessary for a woman to change her name when she marries, and there are now many new variations to this traditional practice. An example is taking a hyphenated name, which requires no formal legal steps to be taken.
- Formally changing your name is a significant step, as it has many far-reaching legal effects. Especially in the situations discussed above involving stepfamilies, you should consult a lawyer.
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