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Hague court recognizes name changes from abroad

If you are Dutch, then Dutch law governing names, applies. Even if you have another nationality besides the Dutch nationality.

If you are not Dutch, then the law governing names of your nationality applies. In that case, the Dutch authorities must recognize any changes in names that have taken place outside the Netherlands.

This does not apply to Dutch citizens. Take Ben van Klinken, for example. Ben has both Dutch and American nationality. Both passports state that his name is Ben van Klinken. Ben has been living in California for several years. He returns to the Netherlands with a new U.S. passport demonstrating that he has changed his names. From now on he will go through life as Bill Clinton. Ben also wants his Dutch passport changed but the Dutch authorities do not recognize the American name change.

The only exception to this is if Van Klinken were to have married Chelsea Clinton in California, for example, and because of this marriage his surname changes to “Clinton.” This is, in fact, stated in Article 10:24 of the Civil Code. It mentions that if a person’s family name or given names are established at birth outside the Netherlands, or if they are changed due to a change in personal state established outside the Netherlands, and these are recorded in a deed drawn up by a competent foreign authority in accordance with local regulations, this family name or given names are recognized in the Netherlands. A change in personal status is, for example, marriage, change of nationality or adoption.

If only the names are changed, this is called an independent name change. Until recently, a foreign independent name change made by a Dutch citizen was not recognized. However, the court in The Hague has changed this point of view.

In a ruling dated November 15, 2023, the court determined that with article 10:24 BW, the legislator wanted to regulate the way in which names established or changed abroad can be recognized in the Netherlands. This usually concerns names determined at birth outside the Netherlands or by a change in personal status outside the Netherlands through, for example, marriage, change in nationality or adoption.

According to the court, the legislator’s intention with article 10:24 BW is not to exclude the recognition of an independent name change. Moreover, it seems that this is not regulated, because it does not often occur in practice. Therefore, the court applies article 10:24 BW analogously to the recognition of an independent name change from abroad. This prevents confusion in international cases where someone is known under a different name in the Netherlands than abroad (the so-called “limping” names).

In this regard, the court considers it important that the names have been changed by a decision of a competent foreign (administrative) authority and that there is no longer an option to appeal against this decision. The court also considers it important that the name change has been officially recorded in the foreign civil register and that the name change is not contrary to public order.

We now have to wait and see if the official of the Personal Records Database is willing to recognize and register an independent name change from abroad or if you need to seek your justice in court. We are happy to advise and guide you on this!

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