Kiara Greenway and Andrew McCormack

In the lead up to marriage, there is often a lot to think about. How many guests will attend the wedding? What colour will the invites be? Have I confirmed the venue booking? And most importantly, what flavour(s) will the five tier wedding cake be (chocolate is always a winner!)?

It’s no surprise that formalities, such as changing your surname, fall by the way-side until much later after the wedding.

However, changing your surname isn’t as complex as it may seem from the outset. In fact, if you were married in Australia, there is no formal application form that needs to be completed.    You’re unlikely to find any set rules or regulations about changing your name after marriage.  That’s because there is a common law right for a wife to assume her husband’s name after they are married.  Your marriage certificate alone is sufficient to enable you to change your name.  It goes back to the antiquated notion that after marriage, a wife became the property of her husband!

The first step is to formally notify the government agency that issues driver’s licenses in your state.  Once your driver’s license has been changed, you can then use this as proof of your new identity.

Agencies like banks, utility companies (e.g. electrical and water suppliers) and any other organisations/companies you hold accounts with or deal will then  accept new driver’s license and your marriage certificate as sufficient proof to change the name on your accounts. This can be done by writing a letter or email, completing a name change request provided by the company, or simply attending the office itself.

Different bodies will then have varying requirements as to what evidence they need to verify the change. For example, you may need to:

  • Provide your original marriage certificate;
  • Provide a certified copy of your marriage certificate;
  • Send evidence of an updated photo ID, such as a licence; or
  • Send a combination of identity documents, such as your Medicare card or Health Care card.

If you have a passport that has issued in your previous family name, the Australian Passports Office will issue a new passport in your married name free of charge.

If you were married overseas (and your marriage certificate is not translated into English) or have had a same-sex marriage ceremony (in a country that recognises same-sex marriage), you may need to go through the name change process, which comes at a cost of $171.00 (at the time of writing). This is because some organisations may implement a more stringent regime and refuse to accept the above documents as proof of name change. If this is the case, you will need to complete the application form available on the Queensland Government Births Deaths and Marriages website, which is accessible via this link: https://www.qld.gov.au/law/births-deaths-marriages-and-divorces/changing-your-name/fill-in-an-over-18-change-of-name-application-form/.