Parents will have more time to decide on a last name for their child

Parents should have the opportunity to reverse the decision concerning the last name made at the child's birth before the first birthday of their firstborn child. It should also become simpler to make the joint choice for the last name of the child known to the municipality. This is proposed today by Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament. In this letter, the Minister announces that he will adopt part of the recommendations of the Liberalisation of the Law on Surnames Working Group, because practice shows that the law on surnames urgently requires amendment in a number of areas.

As is known, parents can choose whether they wish to pass on the last name of the father or that of the mother to their children. Minister Hirsch Ballin proposes to simplify the procedure for choosing a name by means of a written declaration to the registrar of births, deaths and marriages. If married parents want to give the child the last name of the mother, or if unmarried parents wish to pass on the name of the father, they so far had to appear in person before the registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The Minister follows the recommendation of the Working Group to make this possible by means of a written declaration.

If the parents agree, before the first birthday of the child, that the child should have the last name of the other parent after all, they should, from now on, have a non-recurring opportunity to arrange this in a simple manner. Minister Hirsch Ballin proposes to make this possible by means of a joint request to the registrar of birth, deaths and marriages before the child's first birthday. Should the parents have a serious difference of opinion concerning the last name acquired by the child, they should be able to present their dispute to the courts within the same period. A legislative amendment will be required to realise the above. The Minister announces that he expects that this proposal can be submitted to the Lower House in 2011.

The Minister also intends to make it possible for certain categories of adults to reacquire their last name. This comprises the possibility for adoptees to reacquire their original family name once they have come of age. The Minister also intends to expand the hardship clause pertaining name changes. A person who wishes to change his last name, but who does not satisfy the grounds mentioned in the Decree on the Change of Surname, will from now on be able to invoke the hardship clause if he is able to demonstrate that he has a special interest in the change of name. So far, this was only possible if there was psychological hindrance. The Minister also intends to cancel the fees with respect to a change of name in connection with abuse or incest committed by one of the parents.

And finally, in his letter the Minister has proposed to cancel the special clause in the Decree on the Change of Surname which makes it impossible for those with noble names to add a name from the mother's side that is extinct or threatens to become so to their names. For this purpose, a special clause applied to noble names, which no longer serves any purpose as it has become possible to pass the noble name on via the mother. The Supreme Council of Nobility argued in its 2008 Annual Report in favour of cancelling this special clause.