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10 years after rule change, giving child the father’s surname is still far more popular

15:44 08/06/2024

Ten years ago this June, Belgium changed the age-old obligation to give children the name of the father. However, even so, the male parent’s name is still chosen with a huge majority, according to new data from Belgium's justice ministry.

The figures also show that double-barrelled family names also generally take the father’s name first.

From 1 June 2014, under an amendment to Belgium’s Civil Code, parents living in Belgium were allowed to give their children the surname of the father, mother, co-parent or both parents, and in any order.

The only condition was that siblings must keep the same surname - a scenario not being played out, for example, with the children of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The figures show that, from 2019 and 2023, the proportion of children whose sole surname is their father’s fell from 84.3% to 81.3%.

In 2023, double names composed of the father’s and mother’s or mother’s and co-parent’s made up 7.01% of all birth certificates, compared to 5.1% four years earlier.

The data revealed that, with double names in 2019, the father’s name was placed first in 79.8% of cases, with the proportion only dropping to 78.3%, in 2023.

The parents of some 7,490 children born before the change on 1 June 2014 have also taken advantage of the new rules to change their offspring’s surname. The comparison can only be made from 2019, as not all birth certificates produced before that date have been digitised.

Belgium’s Civil Code is a collection of laws governing citizens’ rights. Based on the 1804-developed French Civil Code, known as the Napoleonic Code, it covers the principles of private property, freedom of contract and legally binding contracts (for example for rental agreements).

Written by Liz Newmark