Can I change my child’s surname?

Q- I am divorced and remarried. My ex-husband has no contact with the minor children and I would like to change their surname to my married name or perhaps, give them a double-barrelled name. Can I do so?

A- You need the ex’s consent (or a court order) to change their surname.

You would need the permission of the biological father to acquire sole guardianship (or to change the children’s surname). If he refuses, you will have to approach a SA court to appoint you as the sole guardian of the children. Once that happens, the father falls out of the picture.

I would have to send him a strongly worded letter seeking his permission and indicating that if he refuses, you will be left with no choice but to apply to court, seeking a costs order against him. On the strength of that, he may well relent, in which event I would need to prepare an affidavit for him to sign, supporting your application to acquire sole guardianship.

If he doesn’t respond to my letter or if he refuses to consent, you must approach the court for an order appointing you as sole guardian.

Once you have the ex’s approval or court order, you go to Home Affairs to change the surname of the minor children. Check out

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