Can a woman change her child’s name?

Women sometimes want to change their child’s name (particularly the surname) after they leave an abusive partner. The woman may be changing her own name and want her child to have the same name; she may have remarried and be taking her new partner’s last name, or the child may initiate the conversation about changing his/her name.

In Ontario, anyone with legal custody of a child can apply to the government to change the child’s name. If the other parent also has legal custody (for instance, if there is a joint or shared custody order), that person must provide written permission. If the other parent has legal access, that parent must be given notice. They cannot stop the name change unless they get a court order prohibiting it. 

Other requirements for a name change for a child are that:

  • there is no court order or separation agreement preventing the child’s name from being changed
  • the child has lived in Ontario for at least 12 months or, if the child is less than 12 months old, since birth
  • the child is 17 years of age or younger
  • the child is not married

If the child is 16 years or older, the child can make the application her/himself by using the Application to Change an Adult’s Name.

If the child was born in Ontario and is younger than 12 years of age, there is a simpler process that may be available. Women can get information about this from Service Ontario by calling 1-800-461-2156.

A woman wanting to change her child’s name must complete the Application to Change a Child’s Name. This is a long and somewhat complicated form, but there are very clear and helpful instructions on each page to assist her.

She needs to provide detailed information about the child’s present and desired name, as well as provide the reasons for the requested name change. 

If the child is 12 years or older, her/his name will be checked against CPIC. If the name matches a CPIC record, the woman must get (and file) a police records check from her local police department.

If the child is 12 years or older, the child must provide written permission for the name change.

If the other parent has legal access, the woman is required to provide notice by sending the form by registered mail and submitting the receipt with her application.

She is required to have a guarantor sign her application confirming that the child has lived in Ontario for at least 12 months. Only certain people, including a religious leader, lawyer, doctor, school principal, justice of the peace and bank manager, can be a guarantor. The Application has a separate page for the woman to complete and provide to the guarantor for her/his signature.

A number of documents must accompany the application, including:

  • guarantor’s statement confirming child’s residency in Ontario
  • permission statement from other custodial parent (if applicable)
  • court certified copies of court orders with respect to custody and access
  • photocopies of any previous change of name certificates if the child’s name has been changed in the past
  • registered mail receipt if the woman is required to serve notice on access parent
  • signed permission by other parent if that parent has legal custody
  • police records check, if required
  • if the child was born in Canada, the original birth certificate or a certified copy of the birth registration
  • if the child was born outside Canada and is a Canadian citizen, a photocopy of her/his Canadian Citizenship Card and a photocopy of the original birth certificate or certified copy of the birth registration
  • if the child was born outside Canada and is a landed immigrant or permanent resident, a photocopy of the Canadian Record of Immigrant Landing or the Permanent Resident Card and a photocopy of the original birth certificate or certified copy of the birth registration

Once the woman has completed the application and gathered all the accompanying documents, she must sign it in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths, who will witness her signature. She then submits the application to Service Ontario, by mail, with the fee of $137. If the child’s name is being changed at the same time as the mother is changing her name, the fee for the mother is $137 and for each child is $22.

When the name change is approved, the woman can obtain a birth certificate for the child in the new name.

If the application is complete when it is submitted, the time frame for receiving approval is approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

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