The Vital Statistics Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, C.479 (the “Act”) was amended on October 1, 2002 and again in 2004. Prior to the amendments to the Act, the mother had the sole power upon the birth of the child to acknowledge the father on the registration of live birth. If the father was not acknowledged, he had no right to have his paternity information entered on the child’s registration of live birth or to take part in choosing the child’s surname.
As a result of the 2002 and 2004 amendments to the Act, the legislation was amended to allow a court to consider an application by the birth father to change the child’s surname to include his surname.
Section 3(6)(c) of the Act states that “if a statement completed by only one parent of the child or by a person who is not the child’s parent is registered, the chief executive officer must alter the registration of birth on application of any of the following persons:
(d) the child’s mother or father, if the application is accompanied by a copy of an order of the court declaring the child’s paternity, unless the court orders that the father’s particulars are not to be included on the child’s registration of birth.”
Section 4 (1) (c) of the Act states that the surname of a child must be registered as follows:
“(c) if both parents complete the statement under section 3, but do not agree on the child’s surname, the surname must be
(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 different surnames.”
It is now open to the court by virtue of Section 4.1 of the Act that upon an order declaring a child’s parentage that the registration of the child’s name can be changed. If an order is made in respect of a child’s surname, the court must order the child’s surname to be:
(a) the surname of either parent, or
(b) a surname consisting of both parents’ surnames hyphenated or combined in alphabetical order, in which case, section 4 (2) and (3) applies.
The legislation now provided an avenue for fathers who have been left off of the registration or the process of naming the child, to have a remedy in law in changing the surname. It should be noted however, that the court will look at the best interests of the child in determining whether the name change should occur.