Naming rights are becoming more flexible: the Bundestag votes for a change in the law

More flexible rules
More double names, more freedom of choice: Bundestag votes for new naming rights

The changes to naming law should also make it easier for divorcees and stepchildren (symbolic image)

© Annette Riedl / DPA

Naming rights are being expanded: couples have more options when choosing a name. National minorities such as Danes, Sorbs and Frisians in Germany can revive old traditions.

Anyone who changes their name upon marriage or adoption, for example, has more freedom of choice. The Bundestag voted in Berlin on Friday with the votes of the government factions SPD, Greens and FDP for a reform of the Naming rights. The AfD voted against it.

“Married couples will be able to express their connection through a shared double name in the future,” explained Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP). “In the future, parents will be able to give their children a double name that is made up of their family names.”

A hyphen for double names remains possible, but not required – and after two surnames it’s over. According to current law, only a spouse can have a double name; children generally cannot. There will also be more scope for foreign naming regulations in the future.

Divorce children and stepchildren should be able to change names more easily

The current naming law is very restrictive, especially in international comparison, and “due to the diverse realities of contemporary life, it no longer meets the needs of families,” says the new law.

A lot is also changing for children. In the future, divorced children and stepchildren will be able to easily change their mother’s or father’s name, as Buschmann explained. Adult children can change from one parent’s last name to the other parent’s last name. In the future, there will be more space for special naming traditions of minorities such as Sorbs, Danes and Frisians.

Stefan Seidler, who sits in the Bundestag for the South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW), was pleased. “Our people can now be called what they really are called,” he said. The SSW is the party of the Danish and Frisian minorities. The SPD MP Johann Saathoff from East Frisia also praised the fact that the new naming law offers Frisians the opportunity to return to their roots. Traditionally, the last name was formed from the father’s first name, for example “Jansen” from the name “Jan”.

“New naming rights are also anti-discrimination rights”

Kassem Taher Saleh from the Green Party described that his own two-part Iraqi surname Taher Saleh was not correctly entered into all German personal documents when he was naturalized a few years ago – although this is not a problem for native Spaniards. Things will be different in the future. “The new naming right is also an anti-discrimination right,” explained Taher Saleh. “Everyone has the right to be addressed by their own name.”

CDU MP Carsten Müller welcomed the reform in principle, but complained that it fell short of expectations. Naming rights are becoming more complicated, which contradicts the goal of reducing bureaucracy.

The new regulations should apply from May 1, 2025. This only concerns name changes with a family connection that are regulated by civil law, i.e. questions that arise through marriage, divorce, birth or adoption.


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