Changing the Name of a Child When a Guardian Does Not Consent
In many circumstances, as the dynamics of a family change over time, it may be that a parent wishes to change the last name of a child. In Alberta, Vital Statistics is the regulating body that grants or denies name change requests for children. To change the name of a child, including their last name, the consent of any guardians of the child (which in most cases are the parents) will be needed for the proposed name change to be approved by Vital Statistics. In the circumstance that both guardians of the child consent to the name change, the guardians can simply sign and complete a form, which is completed through your local registry and then sent to Vital Statistics for approval.
In the case that one of the guardians does not consent to the change of the child’s name, there is a process the other parent can pursue to “dispense with consent of a guardian to change the name of a child”. This process involves completing an Application and corresponding Affidavit to be filed with the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta, as per section 69 of the Vital Statistics Act. The Application and Affidavit must outline and demonstrate what name change is being requested, why the consent of the other guardian should be dispensed with, and ultimately if it is in the best interest of the child for their name to be changed. This will then be put before a Justice at a hearing where a determination will be made if in fact the consent of a guardian can be dispensed with, allowing the other guardian to change the child’s name unilaterally.
In Alberta, two recent cases from the Court of King’s Bench have made decisions on whether a guardian’s consent can be dispensed with, allowing the other guardian to solely change the name of a child. In JEB v JS, a decision from 2020, it was reminded that “the onus ‘…is on the parent who applies to dispense with the consent of the other guardian’ and ‘…the only interests which the court must weigh are the best interests of the child, not the convenience of the parents’.” This precedent was cited from the earlier case of Lipphardt v Chan from 2006. This confirms that when assessing the likelihood of being successful with an application before the Court, to dispense with the consent of a guardian to change a child’s name, it will come down to if what is being sought is in the best interest of the child. Determining the best interests of the child in regard to changing their name will be a fact based analysis that will change with each matter based on the independent and unique circumstances.