New Dutch legislation for naming children after both parents

From the 1st of January 2024, parents in The Netherlands will have the choice of giving their children both of their last names. New legislation enabling double names was passed in the upper house on March 21st.

Double names in The Netherlands

Current situation

Currently, a child born within a marriage or registered partnership, receives the last name of the father or co-mother. Parents can only choose between the mother’s or the father’s name. If the parents are not married, the child automatically receives the last name of the mother.

New legislation: double names

This will change from the 1st of January 2024.

Parents of children born on or after the 1st of January 2024, can choose to give their children both of their surnames. Legally, this will be counted as one single surname, written without a hyphen. The parents can also choose the order in which their last names are placed. More information is available here.

For example, parents with the surnames De Vries and Willems can choose between the following surnames:

  • De Vries
  • Willems
  • De Vries Willems
  • Willems De Vries

If the parents do not make a choice, then the first child that is born within a marriage or registered partnership will still receive the surname of the father or co-mother. When the parents are not married, the child still automatically gets the last name of the mother.

If any other children are born subsequently, then they automatically receive the same last name as the first child. This cannot be changed later on. So, parents need to think carefully about their first choice.

Double names can be chosen retrospectively for children born after 1 January 2016

If the oldest child in the family is born on or after the 1st of January 2016, the new law will allow parents to retrospectively choose a double surname. The parents of children who qualify, will have one year to change the child’s name from the date the legislation is introduced. This option will therefore only available be between 1 January and 31 December 2024. Further details on how this can be arranged and the exact term will be announced by the government later on.

Double names in case of adoption

Adopted children can choose to keep their surname and add the name of one of their adoptive parents. The maximum amount of surnames they can choose remains two names. They are free to choose the order of their names.
Adopted people can also keep their original surname without an adding an extra name.

Double names in case of multiple nationalities

Currently, children with multiple nationalities receive their last name according to the law concerning names of the nationality the parents are most connected to. In theory, the Dutch registrar may assess the child’s connection to its different nationalities, but in practice the parents’ opinion carries the most weight. When the child also has Dutch nationality, Dutch law can therefore be applied to its surname.

In theory, children with multiple nationalities already may already legally change their last name, but this is often a difficult and time consuming process. Although in some cases a name change may still be necessary, the upcoming law for double names can provide a solution. If this does provide unity of surnames, the law also allows the child to receive the last name determined by the child’s other nationality. This is acheived by using the applicable law of the other state.

Judicial determination of paternity

After the court ruling concerning determination of paternity, the choice for a double last name can also be made. The same rules as above apply to this situation.

What if you already have a double name?

Some people already have a double last name, but from the 1st of January 2024 this will be seen as a singular last name and in terms of having children, can be given in its entirety to their children, even with a double last name.

When the “generation of double names” has children

This can be best illustrated by an example. Suppose parents named Sharma and Hoardy have a child, that has Dutch nationality. The parents name the child with the double name: Sharma Hoardy.
When this child grows up and later on has a child with someone who also has a double name, let’s say: Groen van der Laan, then their children can have the following last names:

  • Sharma Hoardy
  • Groen van der Laan
  • Sharma Groen
  • Sharma van der Laan
  • Hoardy Groen
  • Hoardy van der Laan

Additionally, the parents are free to decide in which order the names are placed, so there are even more possibilities than the above. Decisions, decisions…

If you have questions about changing your children’s names, please feel free to contact us.

This article was co-written by Elena Cornelisse.

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