How to change surnames
There are so many reasons why people change surnames. Marriage is by far the number one reason, accounting for around 70% of all surname changes. Women reverting to their birth name account for 20% of people changing names. These women may be divorced, separated or just want to use their prior name – no reason is necessary. More recently we're seeing a growth in male partners also change their name on marriage or revert back to their former name. Legal name change, although most interesting, only account for about 10% of name changes.
The reason why you are changing names will dictate the type of documentary evidence you need for your new name. If married and taking your spouse’s surname in place of your own (or in addition to your own, with a hyphen or space separating names), you only need your marriage certificate.
If you’re reverting to your maiden name after divorce, then you can use your divorce certificate providing it lists both your married name and birth name. You don’t have to be divorced to change surnames. You may be separated, or just want to use your prior name. All you need to do is show government issued documents that list both your names and prove the link. Vital Statistics documents are preferred. This is typically your birth and marriage certificates, or divorce and marriage certificates.
If you're reverting to your prior name without being divorced some authorities may ask for a separation agreement or resumption of former name certificate. You may not be able to provide these documents; you may not be separated or perhaps your provincial government do not offer resuimption of former name certificates. Explain to the requesting agency if you're unable to produce these documents and see what alternate documents they will allow. You may need to remind the requesting agency that you are allowed to resume your former name by law without having to be separated or divorced.
If you’re legally changing names the process is a little more involved. You need to file an application with Vital Statistics in the province where you were born or where you currently reside. You may need to prove your residency too: typically showing a utility bill, bank statement, property title or lease agreement. Complete the form, pay the fee and show the necesary identification documents. Some provinces may also have fingerprint checks for a small additional fee. Once it all checks out you are issued with a legal name change certificate, or if you were born in that province, an amended birth certificate.
Once you have your marriage certificate, divorce order or legal name change certificate you can start getting your name changed in all the various places. Most companies and government authorities need to see your certificate. Some may also have a special form they need you to complete and return. Some need you to send your name change request in writing. Most big banks need to you to visit a branch in person. That way you can return any old plastic cards, have new ones issued and your new signature can be recorded.
The most cost effective way to start changing surnames is to make a list of all the places where you need to have your name change recorded. Call each one and ask what procedure to follow. You’ll need a fair bit of time if you have a number of companies as you can expect to be left on hold for a while.
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