Correcting a birth certificate: minor corrections only!

The registrar of the public register in The Netherlands has the power to immediately correct spelling mistakes and other obvious mistakes in the register for births marriages and deaths. This includes correcting a birth certificate if something went wrong during registration. However, this power is not limitless.

Correcting a birth certificate

Registering the birth

Parents must register the birth of their child within three days after the birth. If the child is born in The Netherlands, registration takes place in the municipality where the child is born. If the child is born outside of The Netherlands, then registration takes place abroad and you can opt to register the birth in The Hague. More information is available here.

Spelling mistakes

Sometimes a (nervous) parent can accidentally get the spelling wrong. Or the registrar can simply make a mistake when noting down the child’s name. In these cases Dutch law allows for a simple correction of the birth certificate by the registrar. The correction can be carried out immediately without needing to go to court to change the birth names of the child.

Obvious mistakes?

When is a mistake obvious? Say a parent accidentally forgets to add a middle name. Can they request this name to be added by the registrar? The short answer is no. Unless the parent can prove that they requested the name at the time of registration of the birth and the registrar made a mistake by omitting the name, the parents will have to petition the family court for the name to be added later via a name change procedure.

A recent court case proves that it is not always clear -even to the registrar- when they can simply correct a birth certificate themselves.

In this case, the mother registered the child’s name on April 28th. The father disagreed with her choice. On April 29th he approached the registrar and asked them to correct the name to the name he had chosen. The father claimed that registration of the original name was a mistake. He also stated that the mother agreed to this new name being chosen. The registrar on duty then ‘corrected’ the birth certificate.

The public prosecutor took up the case and requested the court of Rotterdam to undo the name change. The prosecutor argued that the registrar had acted unlawfully by completely changing the first names of the child. The court ruled:

It has by no means been established that the mother gave permission for the requested change, as the father states. Even if she had, this does not matter. After all, the change made to the birth certificate (with or without the consent of the mother) cannot be regarded as the correction of a manifest error for which the registrar is authorised to act. A complete first name has been changed and this therefore results in a request for a first name change. This requires a different legal procedure.

The court ordered the registrar to reinstate the original names on the birth certificate. Addressing the parents directly, the judge suggests that they find a name they both can agree on and then request a name change via the court.

If you have any questions about correcting a birth certificate, please contact us. We would be happy to advise you on the best course of action.

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