My name is ... : The thing with the surname: finally reform the German naming law

Names are everything, just not a private matter.

My name is ... : The thing with the surname: finally reform the German naming law

Names are everything, just not a private matter. I don't mind my last name, but I don't want to be called that anymore. Because it's not my birth name. Unfortunately, German naming law currently prohibits children of divorce like me from taking their own maiden name again after the divorce of their parents.

Many people in Germany feel the same way as me. 39 percent of marriages end in divorce, every seventh child is – surprise – a child of divorce. It's good that people are allowed to free themselves from partnerships that aren't good for them. But why are the associated kids stuck with last names that aren't theirs? Justice Minister Marco Buschmann now wants to adjust the naming rights, it's about time.

So far, name changes may only be implemented for "important reasons". According to "objective criteria" there must be an "unreasonable burden", says the Hamburg authority responsible for name changes for interior affairs and sport when asked by stern. Personal-emotional reasons would not be an unreasonable burden. Instead, according to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, a surname may be adjusted primarily due to "changes in family law status". So: marriage, divorce, birth, adoption.

Since April 1, 1994, the change in family law has allowed an engaged couple to decide which name they would like to adopt. This can either be a common name, or one person keeps the name and the other takes on a double name. The two adopt a common double name is not planned so far. Various family constellations, of which there are more and more in German society, are at a disadvantage when it comes to naming rights.

That could change thanks to Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP). Provided that the traffic light coalition can put aside its various contentious issues and finally implement the measures of its own coalition agreement. Buschmann had already announced a change in 2022, but nothing happened after that. The reform of naming rights is overdue, Buschmann tweeted at the weekend, it no longer does justice to the diversity of life plans: "With the liberalization of naming rights, we are creating more flexibility and new freedoms, but we are not taking anything away from anyone." Nevertheless, people on Twitter make fun of the fact that we don't have more urgent problems. That whataboutism aside, when will spouses be able to make a freer choice, and children of divorce like me finally be able to decide whether or not to go back on their maiden name?

Names appear particularly important when they are linked to crimes, do not sound German or are used in questionable inquiries from the Alternative for Germany. You introduce yourself every day and identify yourself with a seemingly irrelevant sequence of letters. "I am..." and would like to choose the name that was given to me at birth.

With a change in naming rights, the traffic light could finally do justice to its self-titled "progress coalition".

Sources: Federal Ministry of the Interior, German Language Society