Opinion: Double last names in Belgium

POSTED: 02/27/14 12:17 AM

To say that Belgians are a weird lot is a blanket statement that we would not want to be responsible for, but the country does have its moments.

Take for instance an initiative that seems to have the support of the majority in the Belgian parliament that surfaced this week. The idea is that babies automatically will get the names of both their parents.

Most parliamentarians want the double last name, with the name of the father first, followed by that of the mother, in cases where parents do not make a choice themselves or whereby the parents disagree.

Belgium has a minister of justice by the name of Annemie Turtelboom – we’re not making this up – and she had suggested four options: the last name of the father or the mother, a combination of the two names in either sequence, or the last name of the father in cases where the parents do not make a choice. MPs thought that this would give fathers a right to veto some of the options, so now they want to settle the matter in a different way.

Belgium has a way with names, because a married woman is unable to obtain a passport under her married name. Instead, Belgium insists that these passports are issued under a woman’s maiden name. If passport holders insist, the authorities will register on a separate page the name of the husband.

In the Netherlands, parents are allowed to choose between the family name of the father or the mother for children. When no active choice is made, children automatically get the name of the father if the couple is married.

In case the couple is not married, or if it lives in a registered partnership, the child automatically obtains the name of the mother.

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