Changing your name in The Netherlands

You carry your name with you through life and it will probably not only have special value for you, but also for your parents and family. If, however, circumstances are present in which your name is no longer appropriate or may even carry only negative emotions, you can request a change of name under Dutch Law.

Who can request a name change?

All Dutch nationals may request a change of forename irrespective of whether they are currently resident in The Netherlands. For Dutch Nationals born in another country it is, however, necessary to register your birth certificate in the Netherlands before a name change can be executed.

Grounds for name change

Dutch law allows the following grounds for a change of first name:

  • At birth, a wrong or incomplete name was registered;
  • Your given name causes continual psychological and emotional problems;
  • Your given name is no longer appropriate, for example because of sex change or conversion to another religion.

If the name change is regarding a minor, then their legal guardian (usually the parents) must lodge the petition on behalf of the child.

The courts require the following to grant a name change:

  1. The plaintiff must prove a serious and substantial reason for the name change;
  2. The name change must not be contrary to public interest ;
  3. Furthermore, the new name may not be unlawful or improper, such as names:
     
  • that are indecent;
  • that are a source of ridicule;
  • that are absurdly long;
  • that are a surname, unless common use as a first name is proven.

Examples of successful name changes are a change of name from Justine for a man, adding the forenames of grandparents to childrens names which had been forgotten at birth, and the change of a foreign name that is unpronouncable in Dutch or is a source of ridicule in other languages.

One famous example of a name change that was refused, was from a Neo Nazi that wanted to change his name to Adolf.

Procedure

The procedure is different for first names and surnames.

In order to legally change your first name, a petition must be lodged by a lawyer with the competent Dutch courts. If the petition is complete and states fully the reasons for the name change, the courts will usually grant the request without a hearing. The change of name will then be granted in a matter of weeks.

Should the court still have questions, a hearing may be convened in order to gather more information about the request. Minors above the age of 12 years old may also be called to ascertain whether they agree with the request by their legal guardian.

When a name change is granted, the court will instruct the public registrar to alter the registered birth certificate. As the order is subject to appeal, the name change will become official three months after the court order is issued.

Strangely, to change a surname in the Netherlands, it is not necessary to go through the courts. A request to Dienst Justis at the Dutch Ministery of Justice is all that is necessary. Though intervention by a lawyer is not necessary, we are happy to help clients unfamiliar with the Dutch system with this process.

How can Bowmer & Nuiten help you?

Our firm is specialised in international family law and we have all the experience necessary to help you with your name change in The Netherlands. We can also help you to register your birth certificate, if you have not already done so.

For straightforward cases, we can offer a fixed fee.

For more information on name changes, please contact Sabine Imdahl.

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