Goodbye hyphen!: Buschmann presents naming rights with more freedom

Anyone who chooses a double name should no longer be forced to insert a hyphen.

Goodbye hyphen!: Buschmann presents naming rights with more freedom

Anyone who chooses a double name should no longer be forced to insert a hyphen. The draft for the new naming law, which Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) sent to the other departments of the Federal Government for approval on Friday, provides for these and other changes. If the reform comes into force in the version envisaged by his ministry, from January 2025 married couples would be free to choose whether they want to put their names in a row with or without a hyphen.

After the marriage, Mr. Schmitz and Mrs. Koppe could both be called Schmitz-Koppe, Schmitz Koppe, Koppe Schmitz or Koppe-Schmitz. The possibility that both are only called Koppe or only Schmitz remains, as does the variant that everyone keeps their surname and no common surname is defined. If a couple decides on a double name as their married name, their children will also have it.

According to the ideas of the Federal Ministry of Justice, in future a non-married couple should also be given the opportunity to give their child a double name. If the parents are called Hoff and Binz, for example, their daughter Luise, for whom both have custody, could be called Hoff-Binz, Binz-Hoff, Hoff Binz or Binz Hoff. The conventional variant of naming the child Luise Binz or Luise Hoff is also allowed.

The draft, which is available to the German Press Agency, also stipulates that it will not be possible to string together any number of names. If Manfred Schmitz Koppe marries a Marina Müller-Lüdenscheid, they should be able to form a new double name from each part of the name, for example Schmitz-Lüdenscheid or Müller Koppe. However, there may not be more than two parts of the name.

Green: merging of names

The Federal Ministry of Justice does not take up the idea of ​​merging two names, for example making the name Koppscheid out of Koppe and Lüdenscheid, in its draft. This proposal came from the ranks of the Greens.

The draft gives adults who choose to adopt the option to keep their surname, either exclusively or in addition to the surname of the person adopting them.

In the event of the parents' divorce, if the child lives with a parent who resumes his maiden name, it shall also make that the child's surname. The consent of the other parent is required for this if the child has previously been bearing his or her name or if both parents have joint parental responsibility. However, the family court can replace the consent of the other parent if this is necessary for the best interests of the child. If the child has reached the age of five, they must also consent themselves.

The draft provides for a transitional arrangement. Spouses who already have a married name on January 1, 2025 can change this up to and including December 31, 2026 by choosing a double name made up of their two names. Couples who have not yet shared a name - for example because the rules that previously applied were too restrictive for them - have the option to do so at any time after the amendment to the law has come into force.

Transitional period for children's names

The transitional period also applies to changing the surname of a child. The draft states: "The maiden name of minor children of parents without married names can be redetermined up to and including December 31, 2026 by choosing a double name formed from the names of both parents." If the child has reached the age of five, its consent is a prerequisite for the new determination of the maiden name. "German naming rights are hopelessly outdated. We're finally modernizing it!" Buschmann wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The reform he is planning, however, only affects questions related to birth, marriage, divorce and other life events relevant to family law. It may not be the only change that the traffic light partners are making in terms of naming rights this year. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is responsible for the right to change names. It regulates the change of first and last name independently of family law events. It's about whether someone decides to spell their name in German after naturalization - for example, wants to make "Paul" out of "Pawel" - or wants to get rid of a family name that gives cause for ridicule and teasing.

"Even if that may sound technical, the family name in particular has a significant meaning in the life and everyday life of many people," said Jan Plobner, a member of the SPD Bundestag. It is therefore important "that we finally have a draft and can decide on a reform on this basis". Plobner, who is a registrar himself, said it would be good to bundle all the regulations for acquiring and changing names in the Civil Code and transferring responsibility to the registry offices.