The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic discusses the process of changing of your name in Alberta.
Changing Your Name
If you are 18 years or older, are a resident of Alberta and continue to live in Alberta throughout the name change process, you may apply to have your first and/or last name, spouse’s/partner’s name and child’s name legally changed under the Change of Name Act. You can also change the spelling of your name. However, there are certain restrictions on changing your name. Such restrictions are discussed below. There is a $120 government fee to legally change your name. There is also a cost for a mandatory fingerprint, which varies according to the agency you choose to go with.
There are certain name changes that do not require you to go through the legal process. Such changes include:
- Changing your name to your spouse’s last name after getting married;
- Correcting an error on a birth certificate if you were born in Alberta. Such changes can be made by an amendment rather than the legal process;
- Changing a child’s (under the age of 18) name after a change in the child’s parentage on his/her birth records (such changes require assistance from Vital Statistics).
When choosing a new legal name, there are certain restrictions that apply. First, you must use letters in the English alphabet and cannot use any numbers or other non-letter characters in your name. However, you may use a period, hyphen or apostrophe. Your application for changing your legal name can also be refused if the new name will cause confusion, embarrassment to another person, will mislead or defraud the public and/or will be offensive in any way.
Name Change Process
To legally change your name, you will need to apply through a registry agent either in person or in writing. Go to the Alberta Registries Agents website at http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca to apply. They will give you the forms you require, an information sheet, an outline of the costs involved, as well as some of the rules and limitations in the Change of Name Act.
Additionally, you will be required to submit other documents. This includes your original birth certificates, valid ID, proof of current name and submitting your fingerprints if you are 12 years or older. The fingerprints can be obtained from a law enforcement agency. The electronic fingerprints must be given to the registry agent at the time of the application. The registry agent can also assist you in the completion of the forms. The Vital Statistics Office then completes the final approval, processing and production of the legal change of name certificate.
After your application is approved
If the name change is approved by Vital Statistics, a copy of the new birth certificate with the name change will be delivered to you as well as the Change of Name Certificate. However, if you did not give in your original birth certificate, you will need to purchase a new one from a registry office. The name change takes effect from 12:01 pm on the day it was issued.
Refusal of Name Change
As identified above, a name change can be refused where the proposed name might cause confusion, embarrassment to another person or be used in a manner that could be offensive, defraud or mislead the public. You can appeal this refusal in writing to the Minister of Service Alberta.
Marriage, Separation or Divorce
Married, separated or divorced people who change their names through common usage when they got married can go back to their original name at any time. This type of name change is done through common usage and is not a legal name change. You cannot apply to legally change your name back because you never went through the legal process to change it in the first place. People who are not married but live together in an intimate relationship, may also adopt or use their partner’s last name (or a hyphenated version of both your surnames). However, as is the case with married spouses, this is not a legal name change.
If you have children born into a non-marital relationship, those children will be registered with the mother’s last name at birth. However, if the biological father acknowledges that he is the father of the children, the child can be registered in either parent’s last name or both. No child’s surname may have more than two (2) surnames combined. If the parent(s) already have hyphenated names, only one surname can be used.
If you are a married or are a divorced woman who wishes to go back to using your maiden name, you can simply revert to your maiden name by using your birth certificate as identification for changing the name on your credit cards, bank accounts etc. If you have property in your married name, contact the Land Titles Office to ask about the procedure for changing your maiden name on the title.
If you wish for the children of the marriage to also take your maiden name under the Change of Name Act, the father of the children and any children over the age of 12 years must give their consent to the name change. If your former spouse refuses to give consent to the changing of your children’s name, you may apply to the Court of Queen’s Bench for an Order to change the names without your former spouse’s consent. This usually occurs in cases where the former spouse makes no contribution to the care or support of the child and seems to take little or no interest in their upbringing.
Changing Children’s Names
If a parent wishes to change the child’s surname to the surname of the parent’s new spouse or partner who has also undertook parental responsibilities of the child, consent of the biological parent and the new parent would be required. If the parent wanted to change the child’s surname to the surname of the child’s biological father, the parent may do so if the alleged father has been declared by the Court to be the father or has acknowledged his paternity. If the child is 12 years old or older, the child must consent to having his or her surname changed.
To contact Vital Statistics for any assistance with your application, you may email them at email@example.com. You can also contact Services Alberta Contact Centre at 780-427-7013.
Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.