Surname change for children

In The Netherlands, it is possible to request a surname change for children. The formal legal procedure for changing a minor child’s surname (younger than 18 years old) is identical to the procedure for adult surname change; the Ministry of Justice decides if there are grounds for a change of surname.

Surname change for children

We explain the full procedure for adult surname change here. However, the grounds for name change differ for children.

Below we explain the separate criteria for changing the surname of a child. 

What are the criteria for changing a child’s surname?

As with adults, the grounds for surname change of a minor are limited. The Ministry of Justice provides a full (and exhaustive) list of valid legal grounds on its website and in this information brochure. However, all of this useful information is only available in Dutch. Therefore, below we have summarised the available legal grounds for changing a child’s surname for you.

Changing the surname of your child is only possible if one of the following situations is applicable. The letters (A1 etc.) refer to the categories the Ministry of Justice uses.

It is a natural wish that the parent raising a child wants to have the child bear their name. There can also be practical problems, for example when travelling, if their surname differs.

A child’s name may only be changed to one of the following surnames:

  1. the name of the parent raising the child after the parents’ relationship has ended; 
  2. a step-parent’s surname, if he or she is raising the child together with the parent;
  3. the name of a legal guardian raising the child.

The child has to be a part of the family unit of the person whose name is being applied for. The minimum period that the child has to be raised by a lone parent/ step-parent/ guardian before a surname change can be applied for depends on the age of the child:

  • If the child is younger than 12 years old, the minimum period is 5 years.
  • If the child is older than 12 years old, the minimum period is 3 years.

A child under the age of 18 can never request a change of surname by itself, no matter how much the child wants or emotionally needs to change its surname. Only adults with parental authority can apply for the child and file a request with the Ministry of Justice.

If the child’s parents have shared parental custody (in Dutch: ‘gezamenlijk gezag‘), both parents must consent to the name change. The request form must be signed by both parents to prove the requesting parent has the other parent’s permission. Otherwise, the Ministry will reject the application out of hand.

If the other parent refuses to cooperate with the name change on unreasonable grounds, you can request the family court for permission in their stead. For this petition, you will need a lawyer.

If the child is younger than 12 years old, the Ministry will always contact the other parent and ask for his or her opinion; irrespective of who has custody. If the other parent objects to the name change, the name of the child cannot be changed. 

However, there are two exceptions to this rule:

  • the parent refusing consent has been convicted of a serious crime against the child;
  • the parent refusing consent has never been a significant part of the child’s life. This is defined as the parent having spent less than a quarter of the period before the five year term raising the child.

If the child is older than 12 years old, the Ministry will ask the child as well as the other parent for their opinion. If the other parent objects, the name change is only possible if the child still wants to change its name after having heard the reasons behind the objection from the other parent. The child’s wish is the determining factor in this case.

A2: Children with different surnames in the same family

If children in the same family have the same parents, but have different surnames e.g. due to being born in different countries, you may request all of the children receive the same surname in order to restore the unity of the family. 

The same rules as mentioned under A1 apply with regards to who has to sign the request and whose permission is needed. The Ministry shall always ask the other parent for permission.

In this case, a minimum period of having raised a child before a surname change can be applied for does not apply.

A3: Dual nationality leading to different surnames

If your child has two nationalities, then it may have different official surnames in each country. If your child has a different surname on each passport, you may request the Ministry for a surname change. This will change the surname on your child’s Dutch passport accordingly.

All of the children in the family must have the same surname. It does not matter how many years the parents have raised the child before the request. 

The same rules as mentioned under the A1-request apply with regards to who has to sign the request and whose permission is needed. The Ministry will always ask the other parent whether they grant permission for the surname change.

Can I use any of the name change criteria for adults? 

No, the grounds for surname change for children are limited to the A grounds listed above.

We are often asked if a parent can add their surname to the child’s existing surname. This often feels less rigorous than erasing the child’s original surname. However, Dutch law does not allow for children to be given the surnames of both parents.

If you have any further questions regarding surname change for children, please contact us.

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