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Changing your surname: you don’t have to be -ova anymore

Since January this year, new possibilities have dawned for women who do not like the overdone variant of the surname. Previously, only foreign women could freely choose the unpronounced form of their name. Czech women then had to prove the reason for such a choice. What about name changes in general and when can they occur?

žena se podepisuje po změně příjmení
Mgr. Nikola Šedová
3. 2. 2022
7 minutes of reading

Chapters of the article

Emma Smetana, Kateřina Bursíková Jacques, or Eliška Kaplicky. Names of famous Czech women who are most often mentioned in this context. These women were not the only ones who won an exemption, usually because they had a nationality other than Czech, lived abroad or married a foreigner. Other Czech women were a priori denied this possibility. Until this January.

The amendment to the law on civil registry, initiated by Pirate MP Ondřej Profant and subsequently helped to push through the amendment by ANO MP and Government Commissioner for Human Rights Helena Válková, has changed the legal situation and now does not distinguish where and with whom a woman lives or what nationality she is. According to the petitioner, an increasing number of women were being deprived of the unpronounced variation of their names and the situation was unfair for Czech women with permanent residence in the Czech Republic, who were thus in an unequal position or were “forced” to circumvent the law and refer, for example, to another nationality.

In practice, we will more and more often encounter typically Czech names, whose unadulterated form may initially bring a smile to our lips, but in time it will probably become something that no one will consider. How these names will sound to us will undoubtedly be influenced by their unpronounced form: Jana Fiala or Kateřina Sýkora are actually quite sonorous variants of names, Zuzana Marek or Lucie Gabriel will probably not be met with much surprise either, but getting used to really typically masculine variants of surnames combined with a female first name, such as Zdena Veselý or Klára Černý, will probably be difficult. In this context, linguists rightly warn of the real confusion that communication with such chosen names sometimes brings.

But this can usually be avoided by giving the full name, not just the surname, although even this does not completely solve the matter. Such names simply cannot be inflected correctly.

Who can change their surname and when?

Let us now mention all the situations in which a change of surname may occur:

  • Marriage:The possibility of changing the surname after marriage is automatically assumed and does not need to be explained further. The most common option on this occasion is still the choice of the husband’s surname in its inflected variant: thus the bride who marries Mr Shuhai will be called Shuhai. However, men have the same option (i.e. to take the surname of the wife). Another option is to use a combination of the existing surname and the new surname (Nikola Shuhayova Seda). And a new variant is the aforementioned unpronounced variant, which would make our bride Nikola Shuhaj. For the sake of completeness, let us add that no one is forced to change their surname and both fiancés can keep their birth surnames. In this context, it is worth mentioning another change of surname that can occur, which is the change of the child’s surname. If two people decide to marry and have children together before marriage, the children will automatically take the same surname as their parents will have after marriage. However, this change must also be made at the relevant registry office.
  • Divorce: If the marriage did not work out as you wanted and you do not want to have anything in common with your ex (let alone his name), you can report this to the registry office within six months of the divorce (and for a small fee afterwards). The application is not judged and is sometimes handled on the spot, so you may leave work on your lunch break as Sedlak and come back as Fischer. Changing a child’s surname after a divorce is not automatic, but it is also possible (usually with the consent of both parents) to apply for it.
  • Gender change: When changing gender, there is usually a two-step change of surname (and name). First, the person changing gender chooses a neutral surname (Koci, Krejci), from which we cannot tell a priori whether the person is a woman or a man. Then, to complete the gender change, he or she chooses a male or female surname of his or her choice.
  • Another important reason. The reason is usually that our surname may be derogatory and may give rise to ridicule or even bullying. Perception is completely individual, while one person may be bothered by the common surname Šváb, another lives peacefully with the surname Šourek and is not affected by it.

How do I apply for a name or surname change?

Changing your surname is far from just a matter of a few letters on your ID. For some people it is easy to get used to, for others it is literally a change of identity that is difficult to get used to. Sometimes the change is also an expression of a particular opinion (e.g. offspring choose their mother’s maiden name to define themselves in relation to their father). In any case, it is always a good idea to think carefully about such a step.

You can apply for a change of name or surname (except for marriage) at the registry office in your place of residence. You do not need to show any reason for changing your female surname to a non-pronounced form and for changing it after a divorce. In other cases, you need to state how your surname bothers and hinders you.

The application should include

  • the applicant’s first name, surname, maiden name if applicable, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage or partnership if applicable,
  • the birth number,
  • the place of permanent residence of the applicant or, where applicable, of the minor child,
  • the name or names, if any, chosen by the applicant,
  • the name, or names, surname or maiden name, where applicable, and the date and place of birth of the spouse or, where applicable, minor children, if the change of name or surname also applies to these persons,
  • the nationality of the applicant or minor child.

If you wish to change the surname of your children, you cannot do so without the consent of the other parent or (if the parent does not consent) a court decision. The child must also agree to the change if he or she is over 15 years old. The OSPOD, who represents the child’s interests, is also usually called in for an assessment.

How much does it cost to change a surname?

If you are changing your surname for reasons of change to your original surname more than six months after the divorce, for reasons of unsuitability or ridiculousness of the surname, or if the surname of a child in foster care is changed to the surname of a guardian or foster parent, the fee is CZK 100. No fee is payable for adopted children.

Tip: We have covered the aspects of foster care, guardianship and fostering in our article.

Has a legal problem arisen in connection with the change of your name?

Write to us. We will assess your case and draft a proposal for legal services to resolve it within 24 hours.

If your application does not fall into any of the above categories, you will pay CZK 1,000.

What to do in case of legal problems?

Changing your surname is usually relatively easy and without delay. However, if your application to change your name is refused by the authorities, you can appeal within 15 days of receiving the refusal. In such a case, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer about the appropriate reasoning so that the second attempt can be made without complications.

Don’t forget to exchange your documents

If you are planning to change your surname, be prepared for a round of office visits. It doesn’t end with changing your ID, passport and driver’s licence; your employer, insurance companies and many other institutions will be interested in the change.

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