There are two significant events in one’s life that might drive someone to change their surname: marriage and divorce. The decision to change your name is a very personal one. But what happens if you want to change your child’s surname after a marriage or separation? Our skilled family law lawyers provide insight into how this matter would be addressed by the Court.
What Happens If Only One Guardian Wishes to Change Their Child’s Surname
The onus is on the guardian who wishes to dispense with the consent of the other guardian. The Court will look to the best interests of the child and will consider certain factors in making this decision. For the most part, the Court will not disturb the child’s surname unless the applicant can show that it would benefit the child someway and the Court generally will not disturb the child’s surname where it would alienate the child from one parent, especially where the parent is loving and wants to be apart of the child’s life. The Court does not put much merit on if it would be beneficial to the parent (for example, to make traveling easier).
What Are the Criteria for Changing A Child’s Surname?
In Alberta, the Court’s jurisdiction stems from the Vital Statistics Act, which requires that the Court ask what are the best interests of the child? The Court considers the following factors when faced with an Application seeking to change a child’s name:
- The short and long-term effects of any change in the children’s surname;
- any embarrassment that the children may feel in having a different surname from that of the custodial parent;
- any confusion of identity that may rise if the name is change or is not changed;
- the effect of a change of name on the relationship with the parent whose name the child bore during the marriage; and
- the effect of frequent or random changes of the name.
The Court also states that “just because the parties have separated and one of the parties wants a name change, a reasonable basis, in the best interests of the child must be shown.” It is not enough to have reasons that affect the parent, as that is the parent’s issue and not the child’s issue.
Case Law Example of the Court Granting a Name Change
In the case of McInnes v. Weinberger, the mother wished to change the son’s name to her new husband’s name. The biological father had been estranged and does not see the child. The biological father objected, but did not show up for Court. The Court concluded that it was appropriate to change the name of the child because the current husband has assumed the role of the father, the child has step-siblings who would share the same name, and the child actually has issues with having the same last name, as his first name is the same as his father. The biological father had a criminal record and thus having the same name actually created issues where creditors mistakenly sent documents to the son.
Disclaimer: The content provided in the blog posts of Jones Divorce & Family Law is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice tailored to your specific situation. All articles are current as of their original publication date.