How to change back to your maiden name after divorce in Australia

Whether you have recently separated or have been divorced for some time, changing back to your maiden name can seem like a daunting task.

By Meghan Read, Graduate Lawyer at Australian Family Lawyers, Canberra, ACT

When you are going through a separation, you are dealing with so many important issues relating to your finances, property, and children that you might start putting some tasks like changing your name into a ‘too hard basket’.

Many people choose to change their name for various reasons – personal choice, marriage, or separation. It is important to remember that names are not legal property – you cannot be forced to keep or change your name, and you can choose to keep a surname taken ‘in marriage’ too. It is entirely up to you.

As family lawyers, common questions we are asked are; When can I change my name? Do I have to wait until I am divorced?

The short answer is no! You don’t have to wait until you’re divorced. You can change your name whenever you like. To action your name change, there are a few things you need to consider, which we’ve provided for you below.

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1. Did you legally change your name?

Many couples in Australia choose to ‘adopt’ their spouses’ surname, and most government departments will accept your Marriage Certificate as evidence to action the name change. In this case, you do not have to register the change of name with Birth, Deaths and Marriages (BDM). However, if you did register the change of name with BDM, then you will need to register your request to change your name with them again.

2. Have you been married before or ever been known by another name?

If you’ve been married before, you might need to produce evidence of that marriage certificate along with your birth certificate to register your request for a name change. You may also require proof of your divorce for prior marriages.

3. What documents do you need to change your name?

Woman changing back to her maiden name after divorce australia documents

To update your name, you will need either an original or certified copy of the following documents:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Divorce Order (if applicable)

Once you’ve got these, you’re ready to get started. If you need help to locate a copy of these documents, you can contact Birth Deaths and Marriages in your State or Territory:

4. What should I prioritise when changing back to my maiden name after divorce?

The easiest place to start, and arguably the most important, is your driver’s licence. This is because actioning your name change in other places might require photo ID. It is going to be much easier to present your ID to other organisations if you action this first!

The next item on the list, your passport.

While COVID has put travel plans on hold, this is perhaps the next most important obstacle to conquer. A word of warning with travel – you need to make sure you time it correctly. If you have travel booked in your married name, take care to change it before travelling.

There is nothing worse than getting to the boarding gate and realising your passport and ticket don’t match! This can cause a lot of unnecessary stress with airlines, and so to get you where you want to go stress-free, carefully ensure you action your name change for all details of your travel plans, including tickets, bookings, insurance and your ID.


Places to update your name records

Even though it might seem overwhelming at first, changing back to your maiden name doesn’t have to be daunting. To help guide you through the process, we have prepared the below list of all the practical places you might need to action your name change:

  • Licence/s
  • Passport, visa, travel documents
  • Financial institutions (banks, loans etc.)
  • Registrations or ownership (Cars, boats, property, registered items, leases)
  • Insurance (home and contents, medical, pets etc.)
  • Electoral commission
  • Utilities (phone, internet, electricity, gas and water etc.)
  • Subscriptions (mail, streaming services, loyalty programs etc.)
  • Employer or education provider
  • Superannuation
  • Medicare / Centrelink
  • Clubs, affiliations, and memberships

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it should certainly give you a great place to start!


Potential issues in changing your name

Bear in mind that some of these name changes will require you to fill out forms, and some of them may even incur a cost.

There are some common reasons why organisations and departments reject name changes, so you should be careful to ensure that you don’t have any outstanding debts, previous undisclosed offences, or failures to advise of previous name changes. You must also ensure that your desired name change isn’t restricted or prohibited in any way, which you can check with your state or territory’s Births Deaths and Marriage registry.

In some instances, there are also time restrictions to consider – if a change of name has been registered or actioned in the last 12 months, you may have to wait the required period before altering your name ‘officially’ again.


What about the kids?

In Australia, both parents’ consent is required to change a child’s surname as this is considered a ‘major issues decision’ relating to a child, although there are alternative paths if one parent needs to proceed without the other parent’s permission. It is important to note that, though, is if the child is aged 12 years or older, their wishes will be considered.


Need some more help?

Australian Family Lawyers are responsive and accessible, and we have a team of lawyers located across Australia, who are highly skilled and experienced in divorce and separation matters.

Book a free consultation via the form below for some friendly and supportive advice on navigating this challenging time.


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