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Changing Your Name

Changing Your Name

In New Zealand, the birth of a child and the name for this child must be reported to Births, Deaths and Marriages, a government department where information on births, deaths, marriages, civil unions and name changes is kept. Other countries will have their own laws about how the birth of a child is reported, and how a child is named.

Even if you were not born in New Zealand, if you are a New Zealand citizen or are allowed to stay here indefinitely under New Zealand law, your name can be changed officially and unofficially. On this page, you will find information on how your name can be changed at different times in your life.

When do I need to register the birth of my child and name my child by?

A child’s birth needs to be reported to Births, Deaths and Marriages (“BDM”) by the parents or guardians “as soon as is reasonably practicable after the birth”. This usually means within two months of the birth. 

You’re normally given a Notification of Birth for Registration Form. You can also register your child’s birth online.

Once registered, BDM will issue a birth certificate with the child’s full name. This is the child’s official name.

Even after the birth certificate is issued, the parents/guardians can add/drop or change the names that appear on the birth certificate up until the child turns two.

Can I give my child any name or change my name to anything?

You can call your child or yourself whatever name you like. However, Births, Deaths and Marriages (“BDM”) may refuse to accept a name if it is too long, might reasonably cause offence, or resembles a title without good reason. You must use the Roman alphabet, and you cannot use numbers or symbols.

Some names which have been rejected in NZ in the past include: Prince, Judge, Christ, 4real.

If your chosen name isn’t allowed, you may appeal the decision in the Family Court. You might like to get advice from a lawyer beforehand, as an appeal takes time, costs you money, and may not necessary be successful.

Can I be called something different to my official name?

You don’t have to call yourself the exact name that is on your birth certificate.

If you want, you can be called something different to your official name.  It is not illegal to do this, even if your parents or guardians do not like your chosen name.

If you decide on a different name, you can tell your friends and family and ask them to respect your choice. By doing this, you have changed your name unofficially. A lot of actors and singers choose a different “professional” name for themselves also e.g. Bruno Mars,  Katy Perry.

Can I use an unofficial name for official documents?

While you can change your name unofficially, you must keep using your official name for official things like bank accounts, getting a driver licence, WINZ, and applications for visas and passports. Otherwise, you could have problems and delays getting things sorted.

Can I change my name officially?

If you’re under 18 years old and unmarried, you cannot apply to change your name yourself. You need to get consent from your parents/guardians, and they will need to fill out the form to request the name change.

If your parents don’t want you to change your name, you will have to wait until you are 18 years old, when you can change it without their permission.

If you’re married, in a civil union, or in a legal de facto relationship, you can change your name without your parents’ permission, even if you are under 18 years old.

I’m under the guardianship of the Court or MCOT, can I change my name officially?

If you are under the guardianship of the Court or the Ministry for Children Oranga Tamariki, your social worker can arrange to fill out the form requesting a name change and may be able to assist you with changing your name officially.

What documents do I need to sign to change my name officially?

You can find the correct application form to use on the Births, Deaths and Marriages website. The form for requesting a name change is a statutory declaration. This means that when you and your parents or guardians sign the form, you are declaring that the information you have written down is true and correct and must be signed before a registrar, justice of the peace or a lawyer. You will also be required to pay BDM a fee.

Do I need to change my name officially after I get married if I’m a female?

Getting married to your partner or living with them does not affect your freedom to have the name of your choice. Some females choose to take their husband’s surname after getting married; however, there is no legal requirement to change your surname after getting married.

If you change your surname after marriage, you can change it back at any time.
If you are separated or divorced from your husband, you may still continue to use his name.

Similarly, a male can choose to change or not change their surname also after getting married.

I’m recently married and want to use my spouse’s last name. Can I do this or do I have to change my name legally?

When you get married, you don’t have to change your name by filling out forms. You can use your spouse’s last name right away. A marriage or civil union certificate showing your spouse or partner’s surname can be used as evidence of your new surname. However, you may be required to obtain a new driver’s licence and passport.

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