Changing your name made easy

Do you want to know the possible reasons for changing your name and what you have to bear in mind? You'll find fact sheets and checklists here.

The answer in detail

Changing your name made easy

You're planning to change your name following marriage, divorce, or the death of your spouse or partner? Or do you want to change your name for another reason?

Our checklists and templates will help you.

How do you get your first name?

Married parents give their child a first name or several names (middle names). If the parents are not married, the mother decides regarding the name of the child.

What rules apply to first names?

When choosing a name, no apparent interests of the child may be breached. The law in this regard specifies that any ridiculous or absurd names, or names that are undoubtedly assigned to the other gender, are not permitted (e.g. Van Vleck, Wiesengrund, Schmucki). The civil registry office is therefore obligated to reject any such names upon a birth being announced. More than four first names is also deemed to violate the interests of the child because it can be difficult to recall.

How do you get your last name as a child?

As a child of married parents, you receive the family name as your last name. If both parents kept their last name when they married, then they must declare upon marriage which name future children should bear. If the parents are not married, then the child receives the last name of the parent who is responsible for parental care. If care and custody are shared, then the parents must choose together which name the child should bear.

How do I get a new last name as an adult?

In general, both spouses keep their last name when marrying. However, they can instead choose one of their maiden names as the family last name upon getting married. Although it is allowed to supplement a maiden name with the family name using a hyphen, this is not an official form for a last name. However, the name may be entered in your passport or other forms of ID. 
For registered partnerships, both partners also keep their maiden names. Here, too, the partners can sign a declaration at the civil registry office that they wish to bear one of their maiden names as the family last name.

How can I change my name?

In general, names cannot be changed. However, there are scenarios that allow for a name change. A distinction is primarily made between name changes in the case of marriage, divorce, or the death of a spouse or partner, and name changes for which there are special reasons.

  • As mentioned above, a declaration can be signed when marrying or entering into a registered partnership that states one of the maiden names has been chosen as the family name. In doing so, one of the partners or spouses gives up their last name to take on a new last name.
  • Couples who married before January 1, 2013, (when the new law regarding names entered into force) and took the last name of one of the spouses or chose a double name can sign a declaration at the civil registry office that they would like to revert back to their maiden name.
  • In the case of divorce or the death of one of the spouses, the surviving spouse keeps the married name.     They can go back to their own maiden name by signing a declaration at the civil registry office. This also applies to partners of a registered partnership.

What other reasons are there that justify a name change?

A name change can be approved if there are notable reasons for doing so.

What are considered to be notable reasons?

There are deemed to be notable reasons if the bearer of the name suffers disadvantages or inconvenience and their advancement (e.g. job applications or apartment searches) is impeded because of the name. The reasons for changing a name cannot be trivial, but must seem considered. Whether there are sufficient grounds for changing a name is a matter of discretion, and must be deliberated by the responsible authority. There are objectively and subjectively disadvantageous names. Objectively disadvantageous names include names that are considered laughable or indecent by the general public and which expose the person to ridicule. Subjectively disadvantageous names are those which only the person who bears the name feels to be disadvantageous and who thus has a personal reason for wanting the change.

What steps do I have to take if I want to change my name?

Even if you are just requesting a change in spelling, you must make a formal request for a name change. Incorrect entries, on the other hand, can simply be reported to the civil registry office. 
If a change is to be made within the scope of a registration, wedding, death, or divorce/dissolution, the civil registry office is responsible as part of the corresponding process.

If it is a case of a name change for notable reasons, then you must find the responsible office at your place of residence and justify the application. In this case, you must prove, in particular, the disadvantages you word suffer if your application is denied. You must also enclose your family certificate and certificate of marital status, residence confirmation, and passport or foreigner’s ID with your application.

What can I do if the civil registry office does not approve my application to change my name?

If your application is rejected then you must take your complaint before the courts.

You can find detailed information and a checklist for download below.

Important documents
Merkblatt zum Thema Namensrecht
Checkliste Namensänderung