Change of Name

1. I changed my last name when I got married. How do I change it back?

When you get married and you take your spouse’s last name, this is based on tradition. It is not a legal name change unless you applied to the government, through Vital Statistics, to legally change your name (which most people do not do). So, when you separate from your spouse, you can go back to using your birth certificate name at any time – you do not need to apply to the government to do this, and you do not need to wait for your divorce to go through. For example, if you want to get a new driver’s license in your birth certificate name, just bring your birth certificate with you when you go to get your new license.

Sometimes, institutions like banks or other credit lenders, want to see evidence of a legal name change when you get divorced. This is usually to avoid fraud – so that you cannot borrow money or get credit in more than one name. You can do this legal name change as part of your divorce for no extra charge – just fill in the appropriate information regarding your name change wherever it talks about this issue in your court documents. When you are filling in your name in these sections, be sure to include all of your names. For example, if your full birth certificate name is Jane Mary Ellen Smith, make sure you put all of this in. If you only type ‘Jane Smith’, you will legally lose your two middle names.

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2. Can I make my spouse change their last name?

No. If your spouse took your last name when you were married, they have a right to keep that name, even if you divorce.

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3. I want to change my name, but I didn’t start the divorce. What do I do?

As the respondent, you can still do a legal name change as part of the divorce process. You will need to file a separate affidavit with the information required by the court to process your name change. Check with court staff as to what to do if this is your situation.

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4. Can I also change my children’s last names as part of the divorce?

A change of the child’s name can be requested as part of the divorce, but is generally not granted unless both you and the other parent agree to this in writing. Please see a lawyer for advice if this is something you are thinking about requesting.

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5. I want to change my child’s last name – can I do this?

Under normal circumstances, the consent of both parents is required to legally change a child’s name. If the other parent will consent to the child’s change of name, and is willing to sign forms showing they consent, you will not need to make an application to the court. Contact the Vital Statistics Division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (‘Vital Statistics’) office nearest you for information about forms and the name change process.

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6. What if I don’t know where the other parent is, or they won’t consent to the child’s name change?

In some special situations, it may be possible for a child’s name to be changed without the consent of the other parent, for example, when a parent’s whereabouts are unknown. In these situations, an application must be made to the court to ‘get permission’ to change the child’s name with only the consent of one parent. This is known as ‘dispensing with consent’ from the other party. These applications are made under the Vital Statistics Act at the Supreme Court.

The court cannot order that a child’s name be changed. Instead, with this application, you are asking for the court’s permission to apply for the name change without the other parent’s consent. If your court application is successful, you will then have to make another application to the Vital Statistics Division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (‘Vital Statistics’) to change the child’s name with their records to make it official. Vital Statistics has its own procedure to change the child’s name, which is separate from the court process.

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