Name Changes (3:XIV)
A. Legislation: Name Act, RSBC 1996, c 328
The instructions for changing a surname are outlined in the Name Act. It can be skipped if the change occurs during the marriage ceremony or divorce. The procedures for changing a first name are much less formal and are not set out in legal rules (see Section XIII.C: Changing a First Name). The Department of Vital Statistics provides a name change package complete with forms and instructions. They can be reached in Vancouver at (604) 660-2937.
Note the Court decision in Trociuk v British Columbia (Attorney General),  1 SCR 835 which declared ss 3(1)(b) and 3(6)(b) of the British Columbia Vital Statistics Act unconstitutional. These sections prevented a father from having the registration of the child’s surname altered, violating the father’s rights under s 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
B. Changing a Surname
Any person may apply to change his or her own name.
a) At the Time of Marriage
At the time of marriage, a person may elect to:
- retain the surname he or she had immediately before marriage;
- use the surname he or she had at birth; or
- use the surname of his or her spouse by marriage.
b) A Parent with Custody of an Unmarried Child
A parent with custody may change the surname of their child. He or she must submit written consent of:
- the child if the child has attained the age of l2 years;
- the other parent, if living; and
- the applicant’s spouse if the application is to change the child’s surname to that of the applicant’s spouse.
A parent with custody of an unmarried child may allow that child to informally use any surname he or she wants, and that child may be registered in grade one under that name. No consent from the other parent is necessary in this case. A parent may apply to change a minor child’s name legally. It is also possible to apply for a change of name if the other parent:
- a) isn’t paying support for the child;
- b) hasn’t exercised access of the child for over one year; and
- c) the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown.
c) A Widowed Person
A widowed person may apply to change their surname. The applicant must submit a death certificate, or if the death occurred in British Columbia they may state date and place of death and name of spouse.
d) A Divorced Person
A divorced person may, upon divorce, go by the name listed on his or her birth certificate.
To be eligible to change his or her name under the Name Act, a person must be:
- a) an adult; or
- b) if a minor, must be a parent having custody of his or her children;
- a) must have lived in BC for at least three months; or
- b) must have resided in the province for at least three months immediately prior to the date of application (s 4).
- NOTE: A change of name application can be included in the Notice of Family Claim and attached Schedule 5: Other Orders filed in divorce proceedings to avoid the procedure described below.
a) When the Applicant Has Already Assumed the Name
Sometimes the name to be legally adopted is one that has already been informally assumed. The assumed name should be indicated when preparing the application form. For example: “...change my name from John Doe, known as Henry Smith, to Henry Smith”.
b) Publishing Notices of Intention
A person who wishes to legally change his or her name is no longer required to publish a notice of intention.
c) Making the Application
When making application for a change in his or her surname or given name, or both the surname and given name, the applicant must insert his or her name in full in the notice of application for a change of name.
Application for a legal change of name must be accompanied by:
- i) the birth certificate, landed immigrant identification card or Canadian citizenship certificate of the applicant, and others included in the application;
- ii) a marriage certificate where the change affects the name of a married man or woman (not required for persons married in British Columbia);
- iii) any required consents, as above;
- iv) proof of custody from applicants who have been divorced, respecting any children included in the application who were born prior to the divorce;
- v) the statutory fee of $137, and $27 for each additional individual; and
- vi) proof of death from widowed applicants respecting any children included in the application.
- NOTE: Information can be obtained from the Division of Vital Statistics (Vancouver telephone: (604) 660-2937; website: http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/) regarding other related procedures such as a bride’s election of surname at marriage, and changes of name resulting from adoption, legitimisation of birth, dissolution of marriage, or due to improper registration of the birth originally.
C. Changing a First Name
Anyone may change his or her first name. However, minors should be advised that they must obtain the written consent of their parents to do so.
The client does not need to go through the application procedures necessary for changing a surname. The client can start using another first name at any time.
All identification – including credit cards, driver’s license, social insurance card, school records (where applicable), health care cards, bank accounts, and birth certificates – should be changed to the first name being used. This can be done by contacting the relevant organizations and filling out a Change of Name Form.
Usually, the client’s former first name will become a middle name instead.
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