German names / Deutsches Namensrecht

The European Court of Justice is to decide whether Germans born outside Germany and given hyphenated last names there can keep them. FAZ some months ago:

bq. Das Rechtsgutachten beschäftigt sich mit dem Fall des Kindes Leonard Mathias Grunkin-Paul. Der Junge wurde 1998 in Dänemark geboren und lebt auch überwiegend dort bei seiner Mutter in der Ortschaft Tønder. Seine deutschen Eltern haben verschiedene Nachnamen, aber selbst keinen Doppelnamen. Die dänischen Behörden trugen deshalb nach dortigem Recht einen Doppelnamen in die Geburtsurkunde ein.

The Independent reports:

bq. German bureaucrats fear a hyphen pandemic. A child with a double-barrelled name, they point out, could go on to marry someone with a double-barrelled name. Their children would have four linked-up surnames, and the next generation might have eight.

Apparently there has been an opinion by Advocate General Jacobs, but I haven’t succeeded in finding it. It sounds as if the Germans will have to give way. But I think anything that can be done to stop Germans having eight-element hyphenated names can’t be all bad.

6 thoughts on “German names / Deutsches Namensrecht

  1. I’d love to see that person that – especially after a life with all four hyphenated names on all official documents and forms – wants to keep that or make it even worse for his children. I don’t think resolving this issue should be a priority. But then, I am not a lawyer…

  2. This certainly looks like an issue where the legislators ought to have a little confidence in the people’s good sense. As long as the law doesn’t actually mandate multiple-barrelled names — not intentionally, of course, but as an unintended side-effect I wouldn’t be surprised.

    And there already are quite a few hyphenated last names around in Germany, so why bother children born abroad?

    It’s also the type of question where peeking at other countries’ legislations wouldn’t hurt. The question is hardly exclusive to Germany. In France, naming of children was reorganised a few years ago, in an effort to make the law more sex-neutral. Parents can now choose between the father’s, the mother’s and a hyphenated last name, but the hyphenation depth is limited to two. So for parents with hyphenated names, at least half of their name isn’t passed on to the children. (There are of course lots of details, not all of which I’m familiar with.)

  3. Bettina: thanks very much. My mistake seems to have been to enter too much into the ECJ search form (the FAZ kindly gives the case number, C-96/04, but if you also enter 2004, you get ‘no results’).

    Chris: I don’t know how different the names law is in France. They keep changing it in Germany. In this case, the parents were separated and the child born and its birth registered in Denmark.

    People get very hot under the collar about this case, I noticed when I was looking for other reports. But it’s obviously important what name you can use, and it seems to me that if someone objects to what the German register office orders, the law should be clarified. In this case, the local court asked the EU court for a ruling. Jacobs concludes:

    ‘I am therefore of the opinion that the Court should give the following answer to the question referred by the Amtsgericht Niebüll:

    A rule of a Member State which does not allow a citizen of the European Union, whose name has been lawfully registered in another Member State, to have that name recognised under its own laws is not compatible with Articles 17 and 18(1) EC.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.