Naming a child

Naming a child

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Birth Registration

Naming

First name(s)

The choice of a first name is part of the parental care that married parents share. 

 

If the parents are not married to each other and the father has declared joint custody with the mother, the father of the child must be involved in the choice of name

 

Of course, you as parents have the constitutionally protected right to choose the first name of your baby. However, we as registrars also have the duty to observe certain guidelines and, if necessary, to intervene in the choice of first names. In case of doubt, we as registrars can send an enquiry to the local court in order to clarify the matter.

 

 

The following must be observed when assigning first names: 

 

Gender identity

The first name must indicate the child’s gender. If this is not the case (e.g. Kai, Mike, Friedel, Helge are both male and female names), the child must be given another first name which clearly identifies the gender.

 

 

Fantasy names, brand names, exotic first names

Based on case law, the best interests of the child must be considered when choosing a first name. This means that the first name must not be offensive, disparaging, ridiculous or unsuitable. If there is any doubt that the best interests of the child are guaranteed, we as registrars are obliged to intervene.

 

For example, in the past we had to refuse the following first names: “Störenfried” (“Troublemaker”), “Pfefferminze” (“Peppermint”), “Verleihnix” (Fishmonger in the Asterix comics), “Schnucki” (“Sweetie pie”), “Gastritis” (“Gastritis”), “Rosenherz” (“Heart of Roses”), “Borussia” (a reference to a football team) and “Puschkin” (a brand of spirit). These names jeopardise the welfare of the child and therefore cannot be entered on the birth certificate.

 

 

Number of first names

The number of first names should not exceed seven, otherwise the well-being of the child may be jeopardised and numerous problems may arise in everyday life. If two first names are connected by a hyphen, they are regarded as one name.

 

 

Information for our parents who are foreign nationals

When notarising the names of children born to parents who are foreign nationals, the respective laws of the countries of origin must be observed in addition to German regulations. Failure to do so can lead to difficulties when registering with the home authorities at a later date.

 

Therefore, we would like to point out to you that you should always check with your home authorities or your competent consulate whether the names you wish to use are allowed before naming your baby.

 

This information is not conclusive, as there are always changes due to consistent case law. If you are unsure whether there may be problems with the first names you have chosen, please contact us at an early stage.

 

The Society for the German Language External Link(“Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache”) is also available to advise you on the choice of first names. In addition, we recommend that you consult specialist literature which also contains unusual first names with details of the gender.

Last name according to German law

If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth:

  • A child whose parents have a married name (“Ehename”) will obtain the married name of its parents as its last name.  
  • If the parents do not have a married name, they must determine the last name of one parent as the child's family name. This determination is then also binding for all other children.

 

 

If the parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth:

  • If the child's parents are not married to each other and the mother has sole custody, the child will obtain the mother's current last name.
  • The mother can also give the child the last name of the father who does not have custody. This is done by assigning a name, which in turn requires acknowledgement of paternity and the father's consent to the assignment of the name.
  • Parents who are not married to each other and who have already declared joint custody to the Youth Welfare Office (“Jugendamt”) before the child is born, can choose one of their last names as the child's last name.

 

 

Last name according to foreign law

If one parent or both parents are foreign nationals, then the parents have the option to determine that the child receives its last name according to the foreign home law of one of the parents.

 

If at least one parent has his or her usual place of residence in Germany, the German law on names can also be chosen by foreign nationals.

 

As a rule, German law on names applies for a child of foreign parents who automatically acquires German nationality at birth according to the new law on nationality.

 

 

What name can the child be given later?

If the parents' marriage or joint declaration of custody takes place after the child’s birth and the parents continue to have separate last names, the child's last name can be changed within 3 months.

 

If the parents choose a married name, the married name also applies to the birth name of the minor child. From the age of five, the parent with custody must give his or her consent to this on behalf of the child.

 

The changing of a child’s name when the mother remarries is also an important case of a subsequent change of name. In this case, a parent with custody can determine the married name to be the last name of the child together with his or her spouse. The consent of the other parent is required if the child still has his or her family name.