Family Law – Naming a Child


Although many people may not think that naming a child is a family law matter, there are many legal considerations that may affect your choice for your child’s name.

Your Child’s First Name

There is a fairly recent trend among parents to try to find a unique name for their child. However, although parents may wish to create an original or memorable name, the law restricts how a person can name his or her child. The laws about naming a child are different in every province. In British Columbia, if the Registrar of Vital Statistics believes that the name chosen by a child’s parents will cause mistake or confusion or will cause the child or anyone else embarrassment, he or she must refuse the name.

Your Child’s Last Name

Although parents do not typically choose a last name as they would a first name, parents may not agree as to whether the child should have one parent’s last name or a combination of the two. A child’s last name will depend on who reports the birth. If only one parent fills out the form for reporting a child’s birth, that parent may choose the child’s last name. If more than one parent fills out the form, then both parents must decide on the name. If they do not agree because they have different last names, they must give the child a hyphenated last name containing both of their last names.

Changing Your Child’s name

A parent may wish to change his or her child’s name in many circumstances, including where:

  • he or she did not fill out the forms reporting the child’s birth;
  • he or she and the child’s other parent have separated;
  • he or she changed his or her last name and wants the child’s last name to be the same; or
  • the child would like to change his or her name.

Whether you will be able to change your child’s name will largely depend on what is in the child’s best interest. Generally, in order for you to change your minor child’s name, you will need to obtain the consent of the other parent. For children over a certain age, the child may be required to say why he or she would like to change his or her name.