It is your common-law right to call yourself by any name you choose, as long as it is not for fraudulent purposes. You may do this by simply using the name you choose. There is often resistance to this by some institutions and consequently it is best to start by changing your name on your driver’s license.
In Alberta, the Change of Name Act and Vital Statistics Act place certain restrictions on the changing of names. Generally, any person who is over the age of eighteen years and is a resident of Alberta may apply to change her name or the name of her child. A child’s consent is required if she is twelve years of age or older. The consent of the father, if he is a guardian of the child, is required if the child is under the age of eighteen.
Using Your Husband’s Surname
It is not legally required that you use your husband’s surname upon marriage. If a woman chooses to use her husband’s last name, this is not considered a legal change of name. Many women prefer to keep the name they were given at birth. A woman who wishes to keep her birth name may do so by continuing to use her own surname on all legal forms and documents.
Changing Back to Your Birth Name
There are two ways to change back to your birth name. One way is to start using your birth name and insist that others use it as well. A good place to start is with a change of your name on your driver’s license. Then send a signed document to all professionals and institutions with whom you do business stating that you are reverting to your birth name. Some businesses, such as the telephone company, may charge you for changing the account to another name even though you are still the same account holder.
A second way to change your name is to make an application to the Division of Vital Statistics under the Change of Name Act.
Children and Name Change
In Alberta, children born within a legal marriage may be given the birth surname (last name) of the mother, the surname of the father, or a hyphenated combination of the two names. If the parents are not married, the consent of the father is required before a child born of that relationship can be given his surname. If a married couple applies for a change in the family surname and the new name is approved, that surname will automatically apply to the children of the marriage unless the children are twelve years of age or older and do not consent to the change.
A divorced woman must obtain the consent of her former husband if she wishes to change the surname of their children, unless the court orders otherwise. If she remarries and the children wish to take her present husband’s name, his consent and the consent of her former husband are required. A widow who applies for a change of surname will automatically change the surname of each of the children unless the child is over the age of twelve years and objects.
Procedure for Changing Your Name
Visit or write to the Division of Vital Statistics office or attend an Alberta Registry Agent to obtain the necessary forms. The staff will help you fill out the forms and tell you which consent forms you will need for your particular situation. You will need to support all applications with a copy of your fingerprints as obtained by a law enforcement agency (fingerprints are not required for children) and any consent, divorce decrees, or custody orders that the Director of Vital Statistics requires. The application is sent to Edmonton to be processed and a Certificate of Change of Name is sent to you. You must then publish a notice of the name change in the Alberta Gazette, a publication that contains changes in the provincial laws and other legal notices unless the Director of Vital Statistics or the Court of Queen’s Bench dispenses with this requirement. Ask the staff at the Division of Vital Statistics for guidance here.
It is your responsibility to have your identification documents, such as a driver’s license, Social Insurance Number, passport, etc., changed to your new name.