What’s in a surname?
This article deals with the Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992 and The Children’s Act, 38 of 2005, which govern the surname a child assumes at birth, and when a woman or man may change his or her surname.
Surname of a child at birth
A legitimate child takes the surname of either the father or the mother of the child concerned or the surnames of both parents as a double-barrelled surname.
A child born out of wedlock
- The child takes the surname of the mother. However, the child can assume the natural father’s surname if both parents apply jointly to enter the father’s surname in the birth register provided that the father acknowledges his paternity in writing.
- A child born of parents who marry each other at any time after the birth of the child must for all purposes be regarded as a child born of parents married at the time of his or her birth. This applies despite the fact that the parents could not have legally married each other at the time of conception or birth of the child.
A child born of voidable marriage
- The rights of a child conceived or born of a voidable marriage shall not be affected by the annulment of that marriage. No voidable marriage may be annulled until the relevant court has inquired into and considered the safeguarding of the rights and interests of a child of that marriage.
- The father of a child conceived of a voidable marriage where such marriage has been annulled is regarded to be in the same position as the father of a child who has divorced the mother of that child.
A child conceived by artificial fertilisation
- Whenever the gamete or gametes of any person other than a married person or his or her spouse have been used with the consent of both such spouses for the artificial fertilisation of one spouse, any child born of that spouse as a result of such artificial fertilisation must for all purposes be regarded to be the child of those spouses as if the gamete or gametes of those spouses had been used for such artificial fertilisation.
- Whenever the gamete or gametes of any person have been used for the artificial fertilisation of a woman, any child born of that woman as a result of such artificial fertilisation must for all purposes be regarded to be the child of that woman.
Change of woman’s surname
- After her marriage a woman can either choose to retain her own surname or assume her husband’s.
- Even if she assumes his surname she can resume a surname which she bore at any prior time.
- A married or divorced woman or a widow who resumes a surname which she bore previously and a woman, whether married or divorced or a widow, adds to the surname which she assumed after the marriage, any surname which she bore at any prior time.
Change of man’s surname
On good cause shown, Home Affairs may authorise a man to change his surname. He must apply on the prescribed form and, if approved, the name change is gazetted.