Germany to relax rules around giving double-barrelled names to children

·2-min read

Germany is set to reform its laws around naming children, and may allow parents to give their offspring double-barrelled surnames, it has been reported.

Lawmakers criticised the current naming rules as “too restrictive” as it only allows parents to pass a single “family surname” to their children, which is usually the father’s surname.

It was also suggested that the reform could allow meshed surnames, a concept that has become increasingly popular in the UK.

TV presenter Dawn O’Porter famously meshed her surname with her husband Chris O’Dowd when they married in 2012. She took the “O” from his surname to change her name from Dawn Porter to Dawn O’Porter.

Germany’s current laws were codified in the Nineties following German reunification. Married couples may choose to double-barrel their own surnames, but cannot pass it on to their children.

Parents can only give their children surnames that fall outside of German laws if one parent has citizenship, other than German, that allows it. They have the possibility of choosing the foreign law to apply to the child’s last name.

According to The Times, German justice minister Marco Buschmann said that a new bill will be put forward before the Bundestag to reform the law, which is part of chancellor Olaf Scholz’s federal government’s pledges.

Scholz’s three-party coalition – the first in Germany to form a federal government – promised to introduce “true double-barrelled surnames” when it came into power in December 2021.

Buschmann also promised that people would be allowed to change their surnames should their parents divorce.

Helge Limburg, parliamentary spokesperson for legal affairs, suggested that the meshing of surnames be legalised as part of the reform.

Limburg, from the Alliance 90/The Greens party, which is in charge of the family ministry, told Die Welt: “I think merging surnames instead of double-barrelled names with a hyphen would be a refreshing innovation and very charming to boot.”

But there has been some pushback about the reform from Katrin Helling-Plahr, an MP from Buschmann’s Free Democratic Party.

She was quoted by The Times as saying: “Not only is the merger of two surnames completely alien to our naming laws, there is no serious desire in the population for such a combination of names.”