After you are married, people will begin asking when you plan to start a family, but the burning question on everyone’s lips when you get engaged (other than ‘When’s the big day?’) is whether you will be taking on your partner’s surname name.
The tradition of one partner taking on the other’s surname is still quite strong, with surveys showing as much as 82% of newlyweds choose to change their name.
That said, there are a lot more options on the table.
Couples can simply choose to keep their own surnames, combine surnames with a hyphen or double-barreling, or one partner can transform their maiden name into a middle name and assume their partner’s surname.
Couples can also create an entirely new surname, which might look like a Brangelina-style mix-up, but for surnames of course.
Take Mills and Fordyce for example, it could become Mildyce. However, if you decide to go down this route, you will need to get a legal name change procedure going.
With the clear majority going down the simple surname-change path, it is clear there is always a place for tradition.
You should know that you can take on your partner’s name as soon as you like in social circles and you don’t actually have to change your name on any documentation. It’s called Name by Association and is perfectly legal.
If you decide to go the whole hog, the process is quite straightforward, but can be time-consuming.
The good news is, if you want to use your spouse’s name after getting married in Australia, you do not need to register for a change of name.
All you need is an official marriage certificate from the state you were married in and this will be all the proof of identity you need to change all your official documents.
It is important to remember that the certificate issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) is very different to the one given to you by your celebrant on your wedding day and the latter will not be accepted when requesting name changes on official documents and accounts.
If you were married overseas, you may need to apply to change your name through a state authority as some organisations won’t accept a foreign marriage certificate.
Take a breath! This doesn’t mean your marriage is not legal, it just means that it cannot be registered in two separate countries, so you may need a formal name change for the government to accept your married name.
Before you head off to the RBDM, talk to the organisations you need to update your details with about the documents they will accept and you might get lucky and be able to skip that step.
Now comes the more challenging part.
Here are some simple tips to help get you started.
1. Request an official marriage certificate
This can be done through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the state you were married in. Check with your celebrant, as they may have already filed the paperwork for you.
2. Make a list
After planning a wedding, you might be sick of lists by now, but this is a very important one. List all of the places where you have identification, accounts or loyalty cards. Some good places to start are: Passport, driver’s license, car registration, bank accounts, Australian Taxation Office, electoral enrollment, medicare, insurance policies, doctors/dentists, superannuation, your will, subscriptions and memberships.
3. Find out what they require to process the name change
Some places will require you to complete a change request form, which are usually found online, while others will simply request to see your marriage certificate or a certified copy of it.
4. Get identification documents changed first
A government issued photo ID, such as your passport or driver’s license, provide solid proof of your new name and other organisations will quickly change your name after seeing this record. This could speed things up considerably, especially if you have them handy when, for example, you visit the doctors or the bank next.
5. Make friends with the photocopier
Make heaps of copies of your marriage certificate and your new photo ID and have them certified by a justice of the peace. Hopefully you get one with a nifty rubber stamp so they don’t suffer from hand cramps by the end of it all. If you have these on hand, you can simply send some out in the post to companies that require them and not have to worry about sending and trying to recoup your original.
6. Keep adding to your list
Whenever you get an email, letter or notification, add the company to the list and keep working through them.
7. Cheat (just a little…)
Kits designed specifically to help Australian couples with name changes do exist, and can be found online. They contain all of the paperwork to fill out for the major things, like the ATO, passports, drivers license etc. They do, however, come at a cost and you will still have to go through all of the membership and loyalty programs, personal subscriptions etc on your own.
So, now all the hard work is done, enjoy the next exciting stage of your life!
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