This is an updated version of our previous blog article, How To Change Your Legal Name In British Columbia.
How do I get a name change in BC? This question is frequently asked of family lawyers, especially when it comes to marriage and divorce. This blog post will cover how to change your name legally in BC, as well as the nuances surrounding name changes—particularly for children—that clients should know before beginning the process.
How Changing Your Name Works
The process and requirements for legal name changes vary from province to province. In BC, any adult aged 19 and above is legally entitled to change their name, as well as the name of a minor child over whom they have custody (now described as “decision-making responsibility”, “guardianship,” and “parenting time” in the family law context), provided they have lived in BC for 3 months before making their application.
There are two main methods for submitting applications:
- Apply and pay online with a credit card. This option is only open to those 19 and older who are changing their own name.
- Apply by paper. For this option, you will need to complete and print the appropriate form and gather any required documents. You can then submit your forms at any Service BC location or mail your package to the following address:
How Much Does Changing Your Legal Name Cost?
The costs of a legal name change can vary. The application fee starts at $137 and can increase depending on whether children are included in your name change application. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to pay for additional expenses related to fingerprinting, criminal record checks, certification of documents, and the witnessing of signatures on statutory declarations.
For a comprehensive list of the required documentation and other information relevant to the application process, please refer to the Province of British Columbia’s guide on legal name changes.
Changing Your Name After Marriage Or Divorce
The process of a legal name change does not apply in the context of marriage or divorce.
Once you are married, you can choose to continue using your own surname or take on your spouse’s surname. Taking on your spouse’s surname is not considered a legal name change under section 3 of BC’s Name Act. This means that you will not need to go through the lengthy process above to start using your spouse’s surname.
You can simply provide your government-issued marriage certificate and birth certificate in support of your new surname and apply to have important documents like credit cards, bank accounts and utility bills in your new name through agencies such as ICBC, the bank, etc. However, the time and costs associated with this process may vary depending on which agency you are dealing with.
Similarly, if you decide to go back to using your own surname after divorce, you can do so without a legal change of name. Keep in mind that individual agencies may have specific requirements on what documentation they need from you to change the name on an account.
If, however, you and your spouse want to hyphenate your surnames or pick a new surname to use, or you want to change your name entirely, you will need to get a legal change of name through the process described above.
As of 2024, there is a 15-week waiting period for name change applications. To avoid rejections, ensure your name is not offensive or confusing.
Other Things To Consider In A Name Change
While the above information may seem relatively straightforward, it is important to keep in mind the various ways in which legal name changes can impact other aspects of your life.
For example, if you are in the process of immigrating to Canada, a name change may impact the processing of your immigration application by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). A name change may also impact your immigration documents if you took your spouse’s surname and applied to immigrate using that surname. Speaking to an immigration lawyer can help clear up any questions you may have regarding the immigration consequences of a name change.
Additionally, a name change may impact your children if the relationship between you and your partner breaks down. A name can have personal, cultural, or spiritual importance for both a child and their family. The Supreme Court of Canada has even noted that “contribution to the process of determining a child's surname is another significant mode of participation in the life of a child. For many in our society, the act of naming a child holds great significance.” As a result, disputes may arise regarding what a child’s surname should be following a separation or divorce.
Further nuances arise with section 4 of BC’s Name Act, which sets out the conditions for parents with custody over an unmarried minor child to change that child’s name in BC. Notably, a parent can apply to change the child’s name, with the consent of the child’s guardians and the consent of the child if they have reached 12 years of age. There are certain exceptions to these consent provisions, but what happens when the other guardian does not give consent to the name change and the exceptions do not apply?
Case law in BC has dealt with high-conflict family law matters disputing changes to a child’s surname, and the BC courts have considered such factors as the link between the name change and the child’s best interests in deciding whether to grant or deny a name change. As a result, what appears to be a simple application for a name change can turn into complex legal questions in the family law context. In these cases, advice from a family law lawyer may be necessary.
Find Out More
We are happy to assist clients with their questions on any aspect of the name change process. Please contact us at the form below to get started.