Changing your name

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Q - Can I change my name informally?

Changing your name informally does not cost anything and is easy to do.  All you have to do is tell your friends and business contacts about your new name and start using it.  There is usually no need to go through a formal change unless you want to.  However, you must not change your name for an illegal reason such as fraud or to avoid paying your debts.

You should apply to have your name changed on your bank account, credit cards, driver’s license, insurance policies, social insurance card and other important cards and documents.  Usually you will not run into any problems, but sometimes businesses or government departments refuse to accept your new name.  For example, someone in government or at your bank may insist on seeing a formal Certificate of Change of Name before they will change your records.

If this happens you may want to stand firm and insist that you have a right to change your name informally.  If it is a store you have an account with, for example, you may be able to convince them by saying that you will take your business elsewhere.  But if an organization you have to keep dealing with simply refuses to accept your new name, you have no legal power to force them to accept it.  Your only practical option then may be to have a formal name change.

Q - What is a formal name change?

A formal or official name change means that your new name is registered and your government records are changed.  If anyone questions whether your new name is legal, a formal name change (Certificate of Change of Name) will provide you with proof.  

The rules for changing your name formally are set out in two Nova Scotia laws called the Vital Statistics Act and the Change of Name Act.  The Vital Statistics division of Service Nova Scotia handles formal name changes in Nova Scotia.  

You can get more information about a formal name change online at http://gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/changing-name.asp, or call Vital Statistics at 902-424-4381 or 1 877 848-2578.   

Q - Who may apply for a name change in Nova Scotia?

Change of name applicants must be:
•    19 years of age or older, and
•    either born in Nova Scotia or have lived in Nova Scotia for at least one year before applying for a name change.

If you are under 19 someone else, such as your parent or guardian, will have to apply for you.

An applicant may be a person changing their own name, changing a spouse’s name or, a parent making an application to change their child’s name (child under the age of 19).

Q - What documents do I need to apply for a name change?

  • Applicants born outside of Nova Scotia must provide a birth certificate.
  • For those born outside of Canada a record of landing must be provided.
  • Where a marriage has occurred in Canada outside of Nova Scotia a marriage certificate issued by the Provincial or Territorial Vital Statistics office is required.
  • For minor children born outside of Nova Scotia a detailed birth certificate showing parentage is required.
  • Documents in languages other than French or English will need an official translation.

Q - Do I have to be fingerprinted to change my name?

Nova Scotia's Change of Name Act requires that you submit fingerprints to change your name. This rule does not apply if you are changing your name because of marriage, or to children under 12. 

Once the fingerprints are received, the RCMP will conduct a criminal record check to link any criminal record to the new name.   Fingerprints will be destroyed after the criminal record check is done.  You'll find more information about the fingerprinting requirements, including information about where to go in Nova Scotia for fingerprinting,  online at novascotia.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/legal-change-of-name-and-fingerprinting-requirements.  The RCMP has information about criminal record checks and its civil fingerprint screening services online at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

Q - Formally changing to a different name

If you want to formally change your name to a different name you must apply under the Change of Name Act.  You can get information and forms from Nova Scotia’s Vital Statistics division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.  Visit http://gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/changing-name.asp for contact information for Vital Statistics, or call Vital Statistics at 902-424-4381 or 1 877 848-2578.   

As of April 1, 2013 the fee for changing your name is $160.85.

Q - Does my spouse have to consent to my name change?

You may need your spouse’s consent if you want to change your surname. Spouse means married spouses.  You should contact Vital Statistics to find out whether consent would be required in your situation.

Q - Do both parents have to consent to change a child’s name?

Both parents must usually consent to change a minor (under age 19) child’s name. You should contact Vital Statistics to find out whether the other parent’s consent would be required in your situation.

Q - What if I cannot get the required consent for a name change?

If the other parent or your spouse will not consent to a name change, you can apply to court.  

For example, a judge may decide there is no need for consent if:

•    the parent or spouse is of unsound mind, or missing and cannot be found, or has died,
•    the parent or spouse has not provided proper care and maintenance for the child or spouse, or
•    in the case of a spouse’s name change, the couple has separated.

You should get legal advice if you are applying to court to ask a judge to allow the name change to happen without consent.

Q - Changing your name when you marry

The law does not require you to take your spouse’s name when you marry.  Either spouse may choose to take the other’s name, or both spouses can choose to keep using the name they used before the marriage, or a combination of both names.  If you choose to take your spouse’s name, you do not have to change your name formally.  Your marriage certificate will be the proof you need if anyone questions your ‘married’ name.

If you decide to keep your own name you do not need to fill out any forms; you just continue to use the same name.  

If you took your spouse’s name but now want to go back to your birth name, you can make the change informally.  You have your birth certificate, marriage certificate and other documents in case you ever have to prove who you are.  If you want to make the change formally, you will usually need your spouse’s consent.

Also, if you want to formally change to a completely new surname, in most cases you will need your spouse’s consent.  If your spouse will not consent you can go to court and ask a judge to allow the change anyway.

Q - Changing your name when you divorce

If you want to return to your birth name upon divorce, you are free to do so either informally, as is often the case, or formally if you choose.  You can ask the judge to include the name change in the Divorce Order.

If you want to formally change the name of your child you will normally need the consent of the other parent.  If the other parent will not consent you can go to court and ask a judge to allow the change without consent.  If possible, you should get legal advice about applying to court.

Q - Where can I apply to change my name, and get more information?

Vital Statistics Division
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
300 Horseshoe Lake Drive
Bayers Lake Business Park
Halifax, NS B3S 0B7

Telephone: 1 (902) 424-4381
Toll Free Within Nova Scotia: 1-877-848-2578
Website: www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats.asp

April 2013

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