So believe it or not, after practicing family law for 17 years this issue about picking a name never came up. The situation is as follows: a client recently came to see me and told me he just separated from his soon to be baby’s mother. The baby is due in a few weeks. He was asking what rights he has in terms of the naming of the baby goes, since he is no longer together with his partner (not married). Having never encountered this situation before I did what I always do when I don’t know the answer right away, I did legal research. They certainly don’t teach you this stuff in law school! Law can be complicated and dense (it really doesn’t have to be so but that’s another topic for discussion). I came across the Vital Statistics Act (Provincial Legislation) which had part of the answer. Section 10 (3) 2 of the act states as follows: “HOW CHILD’S SURNAME DETERMINED – a child’s surname shall be determined as follows: (1) If both parents certify the child’s birth, they may agree to give the child a surname chosen by them. 2. If both parents certify the child’s birth but do not agree on the child’s surname, the child shall be given, ( i ) the parents’ surname, if they have the same surname or ( ii ) a surname consisting of both parents’ surnames hyphenated or combined in alphabetical order, if they have difference surnames.”
So there you have it as far as the last name goes. If you and the mother/father of the child cannot agree on the last name of the baby, then the baby will get both of your last names, hyphenated in alphabetical order. So you see, law is complicated but also straight forward in some ways. Section 10 (3.1) of the Vital Statistics Act mandates what happens when there are more than 2 parents – confused? I went to the definition section of the Act and noted that “Parent” was not defined. However, keep in mind that in the modern 21st century and keeping with other family law related Acts (legislation), we know that a “parent” does not have to be biological and there can easily be situations where there are more than 2 parents.
Luckily in my client’s case, he and the baby’s mother were agreeable on the first name of the child and he just wanted to make sure what his rights were with respect to the last name. Nevertheless, I was curious to see what happens if both parents can’t agree on the first, given name of the baby. To my surprise, I couldn’t find anything, but I’m still looking (custody and best interests tests could always be applied)…stay tuned for the answer in another post. If you have any family law related questions, regarding custody, access or divorce in Brampton, Ontario, please contact my office for a initial confidential consultation.