Can I Name My Child Whatever I Like?

3 February, 2015
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Fancy calling your baby ‘Marmite’ or perhaps a Paddington inspired ‘Marmalade’?! My eye was drawn to a headline in family news this week, that a French family court has prohibited a couple from naming their daughter Nutella after the chocolate hazelnut spread. The parents in northern France had sought to register the name and the matter was referred to a family court judge. The court ruled that “the first name Nutella, given to the child, is that of the commercial brand of a spread” and would cause “mockery or disobliging remarks”. The girl has now been named Ella.

In this jurisdiction, parents can give a child any first names and surnames they choose and the surname does not have to be the same as the parents. In the Cripps Pemberton Greenish’s family team, we are used to dealing with cases where a parent wishes to change a child’s given surname following a separation or divorce. Where all those with parental responsibility for a child do not agree to the change, a court application for a specific issue order is necessary, with an explanation about why it is consistent with the child’s welfare that the change should be made.

Fortunately I have never had to deal with any crazy name requests but perhaps we should have more stringent rules about naming children than we do, like France and other countries? On further research, I was amazed to find that New Zealand’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages has a list of rejected baby names which includes names like ‘Anal’ and ‘4real’. I learned that there have been over 60 attempts to name a child ‘Justice’ and permutations with ‘Justus’ and ‘Juztice’. However, ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’ was accepted. Perhaps ‘Nutella’ isn’t so bad after all?!