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Understanding the Legality of a Child’s Last Name


Life changes in significant ways after a separation from a former partner and this is heightened when the two of you share a child. One of the biggest challenges going forward is often agreeing upon the specifics of child custody and how he or she should be raised. And while it may not be the most obvious issue as soon as a separation occurs, one point of contention that can arise is what the last name of the child you share should be.

Changing a Child’s Last Name

One of the preliminary aspects of understanding the legality of a child’s last name and the fact that it might need to be changed is understanding why it may need to be in the first place. Over the course of time, there can be changes in your family’s structure in which this issue arises such as:

  • Desire to disassociate from a former partner
  • A new partner’s desire to adopt your child from a previous relationship
  • Your child wanting to share the same last name as everyone else in the new family unit

To legally change a child’s name, the child must:

  • Have lived in Ontario for either a full year or his or her entire life if under 1 year old
  • Be no older than 17 years old
  • Be unmarried
  • If at least 12 years old, agree to the name change

Additionally, there typically can’t be any court orders or separation agreements that prohibit the change of name. If you find yourself in a situation in which another adult who has legal custody of the child does not consent to change the child’s name, you should reach out to an experienced child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

What Case Addressed Changing a Child’s Last Name?

This issue was discussed in the 2015 decision of S.D.G. v. A.S. In that case, the father, who was incarcerated at the time the child at issue was born, was seeking to change the daughter’s maternal surname to a hyphenated surname. The mother, who had two older children with the same last name, was very much opposed to any change in their daughter’s name.

The court acknowledged that it can order the Registrar General to change a last name if it is in a child’s best interests, namely because the court has parens patriae over this issue – meaning it has the legal right to act as a parent in place of an actual parent. However, in this case there was no danger of the child being confused about her identity nor evidence that not having her biological father’s last name was preventing her from bonding with him. Therefore, the court refused to change her name.

Are You Struggling to Understand the Next Steps in Regard to Your Child?

As stated above, there are many factors that can influence your desire or need to change your child’s last name. If you are interested in learning more about how one parent can change the last name of a minor without the consent of the other parent, it is imperative that you obtain competent legal help as soon as possible. As the Mississauga child custody lawyers at Zagazeta Garcia LLP, we are knowledgeable and experienced in the special laws applicable to this type of case. Regardless of the kind of legal help you need in regard to a dispute involving your child, we are here to help ease the stress of what can be a very challenging time for both you and your children. Begin by reaching out to us today for help.


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