Italian court rules that children can receive their mother’s surname

In a landmark decision, the Italian constitutional court has ruled that children born in Italy can be given their mother’s surname. At present children born in Italy are still automatically given the name of the father. That is unless the father is unknown at the time of birth.

Mother's surname

The European court of Human Rights previously reprimanded Italy for not allowing parents a choice, but the Italian government did nothing to act on this ruling. The Italian constitutional court has now confirmed this in its judgement of April 27th, 2022. The law as it stands in Italy is discriminatory and harmful to a child’s identity. The law is contrary to the principles of equality and therefore unconstitutional and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The constitutional court held that children may either be given the surname of both parents or either parent. It is already possible to have both parents’ names given to the child in Italy, just not the mother’s on its own.

This judgement is also relevant in The Netherlands, as The Netherlands are also bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. Though it has been possible to give a child the surname of the biological mother, non-biological mother or adoptive parent since 1998, the default position is still the father’s surname. If the father does not agree to the mother’s surname being used, then the father’s name will be registered as the child’s surname.

Furthermore, it is currently not possible to give a child a double surname with the names of both parents. New legislation was introduced to the Dutch parliament at the end of 2021 to make this possible. As of this time, however, it is unclear if and when this legislation will make it through parliament.

Even the proposed new legislation still retains the father’s name as the default if parents cannot agree, which can still be deemed discriminatory. The solution? Make the default surname a combination both names, whereby the parents can then opt for using only one of the two surnames . This, for example, has been the case in Belgium since 2016.

Not having the option of using a double name at birth also prevents parents changing the surnames of their children to a double name later on. In some cases it is possible to change the child’s surname to the other parent’s but only in very strict circumstances. See our article on surname change for children.

If you have any questions regarding name change or birth certificates in The Netherlands, please do not hesitate in contacting us.

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