Name exchange: middle name becomes first name for bullied woman

In The Netherlands, it is possible to apply to the courts to change your first name(s). In a recent court case a woman applied to exchange her first name with her middle name, rather than take a new name.

The case seems easy, just change the names around and that is that. However, the legal norm is that you have to have a sufficiently serious (‘weighty’) reason to change your first name. It does not matter that you already had the name, albeit in a different order. Changing the names around still means amending a person’s birth certificate.

The case came to court, which is in itself unusual, as nobody contested the request. The court has to weigh the interest of the individual against the interest of keeping the public records consistent (by not allowing frivolous name changes). The background of the case was quite sad. The woman’s first name had been twisted and used to bully her severely during both junior and secondary school. This left her with a trauma, which is now fueled by the fact she works in healthcare. Her young clients often make the same joke about her name.

The woman was in therapy and her psychologist testified that it would help her a lot if she could change her name. In practice, she had been using her middle name socially for around three years, but the old name was still on all her official documents. Out of respect for her parents, the woman wanted to keep her first name as a middle name. A ‘simple’ exchange was all she needed.

The decision

The court decided in her favour and ordered the name exchange. The court held that the explanation the woman gave in court combined with the declaration by the psychologist prove that the woman had a legitimate and weighty interest in changing her name.

Due to privacy rules, we can only guess what name the woman had that was so easy to use as a tool to bully her, as this is redacted in the published judgement. But we can imagine. For example, a perfectly common Dutch name such as Joke (pronounced Yoke), can cause much mirth in the English speaking world.

Proof of the need to change your name

The case proves that to change your name you need more than just the urge to change your name or, as in this case, change it around. You have to provide solid evidence for your reasoning. Read more

If you want legal advice on changing your name, please contact us.

Contact us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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