I had a call from a client who is having trouble finding accurate information. She wants to add her husband’s surname to her own after their upcoming wedding.

Unfortunately, information on how to do this does not seem to be readily available, and phoning Government Departments led to some misinformation.

Firstly, if you want to change your name in Australia you may need to do a name change with the state Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages (BDM). This costs money and there are certain procedures to follow.

However, If you want to change your surname to reflect your marriage in Australia, this official name change at BDM is NOT required. A person can simply change their surname to their spouse’s surname or add their spouse’s surname to their own. Let me repeat this. You do NOT need to apply for a change of name at BDM if you are changing your surname due to marriage.

So how does this work? On the wedding day, your celebrant will hand you a commemorative marriage certificate which states that you are married. This certificate cannot be used to change your name on an identity document. You can apply to BDM for an official marriage certificate which states that BDM have registered your marriage. Your celebrant may assist with ordering this certificate. Depending on your state, this may take a couple of weeks.

Once you receive this Official Marriage Certificate from BDM, you can take this to the Motor Registry to change your surname on your Driver’s Licence. You can make an appointment at the Post Office to change your surname on your Passport. You can contact Medicare to change your name on your Medicare card. You can contact your bank to change your name on your bank account.

But – you don’t have to. You can keep on using your own name if you choose.

If you are looking to change your surname after marriage on an identity document and the customer service officer is unaware that you can add your spouse’s name to your own (with or without a hyphen), you may need to request that they check their guidelines or check with a supervisor.

I wish there was a link to a Government website which explained this clearly. But listed below are quotes from Government websites all collated in the one place.

Here is what the Passports website says:

“If you’ve taken your spouse’s family name, or added it to your own family name, you can generally link your names by showing us:

  • your Australian birth certificate and
  • a marriage certificate issued by a BDM in Australia”

Previously the Passports website spellt it out a little more clearly. (This was written before marriage equality in Australia).

“The bride or the groom may choose one of the following family name options in a passport due to marriage:

  • retain your existing family name; or
  • adopt your spouse’s family name; or
  • adopt a combination of your family name and your spouse’s family name with or without a hyphen.

For example, if Lisa Smith marries Tom Jones, her name after marriage could be:

  • Lisa Smith
  • Lisa Jones
  • Lisa Smith Jones
  • Lisa Jones Smith
  • Lisa Smith-Jones
  • List Jones-Smith”

This is from the BDM Qld web site:

“If you were married in Australia, you don’t generally need to apply to change your name with us.”

This is from the BDM NSW web site:

“If married in Australia, you can take the surname of your husband, wife or partner or add their surname to yours, without registering a name change.
You can use your official marriage certificate to prove your new name.”

This is from the BDM Vic web site:

“If you married in Australia:

  • You can take your spouse’s family name
  • Both partners can hyphenate their family names.

You don’t need to apply for a change of name. Just give the relevant organisations a copy of your Australian marriage certificate.”

This is from the BDM WA web site:

“Any person who marries in Australia may choose to assume their spouse’s surname. This is done as a matter of custom, not law.  A certified marriage certificate issued by an Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is usually sufficient evidence to have personal documentation changed to a married surname.”

This is from the BDM SA web site:

“You don’t need to register your new name with Consumer and Business Services (CBS) if you:

  • get married in Australia and take your partner’s surname”

Hoping this will help get some more accurate information out there!