A child’s name is considered an important matter and is therefore a guardianship issue.

Guardianship decisions usually need to be by agreement between the guardians. This issue was dealt with in a recent court case where there was a dispute between the mother and father of the children over the children’s names.

The issue began when the separated parents could not agree on what names they would call their twins. Their registered, legal, names were in line with the mother’s wishes, but the father continued to call the twins his preferred names. Neither parent would agree to compromise on their preferred names for the twins.

The father brought a claim to the Family Court for an order determining the twins’ names.

When determining guardianship issues, the Court must consider the wellbeing and best interests of the child. The Judge in the Family Court decided that changing the twin’s first names would cause significant confusion for the twins and negatively impact their sense of identity. In turn, this would negatively impact the twins’ welfare and best interests.

The Judge ordered that the mother’s preferred names remain the twins’ legal first names and that the father’s preferred names be the twins’ legal middle names, as the twins were not attached to their current middle names.

This decision promoted both of the parent’s wishes, as well as providing a connection between the twins’ legal names and the names their father was calling them.

The mother appealed this decision to the High Court, arguing that the Family Court’s order would negatively impact the twins’ welfare by allowing the father to call them different names.

The Court considered that the father would likely call the twins by his preferred names, despite a court order. It was not open to either Court to make an order preventing the father from referring to the twins by his preferred names.

The order took into account that each parent plays a guardianship role in their child’s lives, and therefore both parent’s views should be considered.

The Court decided that the children’s names should remain as the Family Court had ordered, but that the twins must be referred to by their legal first names in dealings with organisations such as Government departments, schools, and medical practices. The Court emphasised that the children should not be subject to confusion in dealing with such organisations.

It is important to be aware of your rights and obligations as a guardian. If you are having a guardianship dispute, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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Gianna Menzies and Hunter Flanagan-Connors