To – Hyphenate or Not to – Hyphenate

the best interests of the childWhen the Family Court is asked to make a decision about a child because the parents are unable to agree, its decision-making must result in an outcome that is in the best interests of the child, after applying Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 to the unique facts and circumstances of each individual matter. At times, parties can come up with the most original reasons as to why their proposals will be in their child’s best interests.

Take the case of Reynolds & Sherman [2015] FamCAFC 128

Mr Sherman and Ms Reynolds had a baby together – unexpectedly. When Mr Sherman was contacted by the Child Support Agency, he denied that he was the Father. Unsurprisingly, Mum and Dad’s post-natal relationship got off to an acrimonious start. Nevertheless, they managed to agree to share parental responsibility for the baby, and Dad now spends regular time with his son.

Ms Reynolds wanted the baby’s last name registered as hers. Mr Sherman disagreed. He wanted the baby to have the surname Sherman-Reynolds.

Ms Reynolds did not want the baby to have a hyphenated surname because:

a)    It is a nuisance;
b)    It has to be spelt out on the phone;
c)    A hyphen can be misconstrued as a complex virus attack in computing;
d)   The surname has to be shortened to fit forms and computing systems;
e)   When contacting companies it is time consuming to find the persons file;
f)    It is impossible to write their names on their homework sheets and lunch boxes;
g)   When children with hyphenated surnames become teenagers they want to drop a surname but cannot decide which one; and
h)   What surname will the child give their own children if they ever get married to someone also with a hyphenated surname?

Mum was worried that if Mr Sherman “disengaged” with his son, the baby would be left with a hyphenated surname which would remind him of “a man who deserted him”.

Although Ms Reynolds lost at first instance she successfully appealed, and the matter will be reheard. For the full judgment see http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FamCAFC/2015/128.html

Categories: Articles & News and Child Custody.