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Which parent chooses / decides a child’s name?

By: Steven Benmor, B.Sc., LL.B., Family Lawyer

Jurisdiction: Ontario (Canada)

In the June 19, 2002 decision of Kreklewetz v. Scopel, the Ontario Court of Appeal decided that Ontario law permits the mother, not the father, to select the child’s name.

The court held that the Vital Statistics Act allows a mother to have the ultimate ability to determine the surname of her child in circumstances where the father is unknown to or ‘unacknowledged’ by her. That is, a mother may admit the identity of the father, but then refuse to acknowledge him for the purpose of naming the child.

In this case, the father and the mother had been involved in a sporadic relationship ending shortly after the birth of their son in 1998. The mother was the primary caregiver to the child and the father exercised access and paid child support.

The parties had a dispute regarding the child’s name and the father applied to the court for an order to change the child’s name. After being denied this relief, the father appealed to the Ontario Court Of Appeal, where his appeal was dismissed.

The appellate court ruled that the Vital Statistics Act expressly provides that if the mother certifies the child’s birth and the father is unknown to or ‘unacknowledged’ by her, she may give the child her surname. The court held that the Ontario legislature had made a policy decision to allow a mother to have the ultimate ability to determine the surname of the child. The appellate court was not prepared to override that policy.

Steven Benmor

About the author: Steven Benmor practices Family Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Visit Steven Benmor’s online Family Law Resource Center for concise answers to many more frequently asked Family law questions, feature articles on Family law topics, dozens of links to other Family law websites, and more at The information on this page is for discussion purposes only. It is by no means legal advice or even a statement of the law on this subject. Please do not rely on the accuracy or completeness of this information. Any question or concern elicited by the information on this page should be taken to a lawyer who will consider the facts of each case and the legal remedies available.