The foremost marker of an individual’s identity is his/her name. This is how he/she is known both in the personal as well as public sphere. Therefore, when one wishes to alter a part of his/her identity or add on to it like in case of marriage, a change of name is a logical consequence. In this article, we respond to some commonly asked questions that relate to change of name.
What is a change of name?
Change of name refers to the legal act of allowing a person to adopt a new name, changing the name they received at birth or through marriage or adoption. Name changes can be a result of personal choice, to conceal a person’s identity, or for other ideological or social reasons. It is a criminal offence to independently change the information on one’s birth certificate. A person can change their forename or surname or both in Zimbabwe in accordance with section 18 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Chapter 5:02).
What is the procedure for changing one’s forename?
This is done in terms of section 18 (2) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act.
- The person concerned or in the case of a minor (below the age of 18years) their responsible parent or legal guardian, may apply to the Registrar-General for the registration of the forename in the appropriate register of births.
- The Registrar-General may require further evidence to support the application as well as payment of the prescribed fee.
- If the Registrar-General is satisfied they will then register the changed forename or the forename received by the person concerned and issue a new birth certificate reflecting the name change.
What is the procedure for changing one’s surname?
This is done in terms of section 18(3) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act. A change of surname is made through a notarial deed of change of name.
- The person concerned or in the case of a minor (below the age of 18years) their responsible parent or legal guardian appears before a notary public and instructs them to draw up a notarial deed of change of name.
- The Notary Public will then draw up a notarial deed of change of name as per the instructions given. The person appears and signs the deed in the presence of the notary public.
- A notice for the change of name must be published/advertised once in the Government Gazette and in a daily newspaper for a period of fourteen (14) days.
- After the lapse of 14 days from the date of publication of the notice, if there be no objections to the proposed change of name, proof that the change of name has been advertised in the Gazette must be submitted by the notary public together with the notarial deed and prescribed fee to the Deeds Office for registration.
- If the Registrar-General is satisfied, the change of name is effected and a new birth certificate bearing the name change issued.
Who is a responsible parent?
A responsible parent is defined in section 18 (1) Births and Deaths Registration Act. Responsible parent means the father of the child; or where the father of the child is dead the mother; or a mother who has been granted custody of the child through a law relating to the guardianship of children; or where child is born out of wedlock, the mother of the child.
What is the procedure for children born out of wedlock?
The law does not require the mother of the child to obtain consent from the father of the child to change the name or surname the child. In the case of Rumbidzai Cleo Katedza v Adrian Tulani Chunga and Another HH 50/03 the court held that the mother of a child born out of wedlock can claim a birth certificate for her child in her capacity of sole legal guardian of the child. The father has no say in the matter.
What happens when a woman marries/divorces/is widowed?
- When a woman marries, there is no legal requirement for her to assume her husband’s surname it is merely a custom and common law practice that has been adopted for centuries.
- When a woman divorces or is widowed, there is also no legal requirement for her to revert back to her maiden name it remains her right to change the surname to any other surname, i.e. former husband’s name or new husband’s name or even reverting back to own maiden name.
If you have additional questions that we have not answered or require the services of a Notary Public to draw up a notarial deed of change of name at JPLP we have a lawyer ready to assist you. Visit us today at No. 7 Edmonds Avenue, Belvedere, Harare.