Surname of Spouses
Under what rules can fiancés modify their
surnames? What changes can be made during the marriage and how can surnames be
changed after the divorce?
How can fiancés change their surnames?
1. Choosing a common surname
The spouses can select the surname of one of them as the common (family) surname. In accordance with the principle of equality of husband and wife, this surname can be either the husband's or the wife's surname. However, not the surname of a third person. The chosen family surname will also be borne by all their children.
If one of the fiancés has a double surname, the fiancés may also decide that this double surname shall be the common surname.
2. They both keep their surnames
The spouses may also both keep their surnames. However, there must be an agreement as to whose surname the joint children will bear. This chosen surname will be borne by all their children. It is therefore not possible to make a choice for some children in this way and for others in another way. The choice also applies to joint children born before the marriage.
However, the spouses can then choose a common (family) surname at any time thereafter. If they choose as family surname the other surname than the one borne by the children, the children's surname changes too, by law.
3. Choice of joint surname and attachment of the existing surname
The third option is that the spouses choose the surname of one of them as the common (family) surname (and their children will bear it), and the other spouse will add his/her original surname to the common surname. This spouse will have "appended surname". The common surname is always at the first place, the former surname is second. The order is legally determined.
Example: one fiancé's name is Jan Pospíšil, the other fiancée's name is Alena Pomalá. They choose her man's surname as the common surname - i.e. Pospíšil/Pospíšilová. However, the other fiancée decides to add her current surname as the common surname - so she will be Alena Pospíšilová Pomalá.
The law lays down certain rules to avoid chaining surnames:
- If a fiancé whose surname was not chosen as the common surname already has an appended surname, this fiancé may choose only his/her first surname as the surname to be joined - i.e. the surname that was the common surname in his/her previous marriage.
Example: one fiancé's name is Aleš Velký, the other fiancée's name is Jana Zelená Nováková (this is an appended surname - the surname Zelená is her former husband's surname, which they chose as their common surname). The fiancés choose the man's surname as the common surname - the surname Velky/Velká. If the lady wishes add her current surname as the common surname, she can only do so for the surname that was the common surname in her previous marriage - Jana Velká Zelená.
- If the fiancé whose surname is to become the common surname already has a surname that is being added, then the other fiancé cannot add his or her surname behind the "duplicated" common surname.
Example: one fiancé's name is Aleš Malý, the other fiancée's name is Jana Zelená Nováková (this is an appended surname - the surname Zelená is her ex-husband's surname, which they chose as the common surname). The fiancées choose the wife's surname as their common surname - Zelená Nováková/Zelený Novák. However, the husband cannot append his/her current surname (he cannot have a "triple surname" - Aleš Zelený Novák Malý).
However, the restriction applies only to the appended surname. The law does not apply the restriction to a double surname a person has since birth (or acquired otherwise than by marriage). If, for example, a man had the surname Novák Blažek since birth, and this surname was to be declared common upon his marriage, it is theoretically possible that the other fiancée append her previous surname as the common surname.
When do the fiancés have to agree?
The fiancés must reach an agreement on the surname issue no later than during the pre-marital process. During a civil marriage ceremony, fiancées will subsequently make declaration about their surname directly at the ceremony. During a religious ceremony, e.g. with the Roman Catholic Church, the declaration is not part of the ceremony, so the agreement must be secured during the pre-marital procedure.
Subsequent changes of surname during the marriage
The common surname of husbands may be changed, especially if the surname is ridiculous or derogatory or there is a serious reason for it. The change can only be allowed with the consent of both spouses, and the change applies to both spouses and joint children. If the children are over fifteen years of age, they also must consent.
If the spouses have different surnames, surname can only be changed to the surname of the other spouse. The spouse (whose surname will then be common surname) must also give his/her consent to the change.
Change of surname for women
Female surnames are formed according to the Czech grammar. However, at the request of the woman, the surname which the woman will use after the marriage may be entered in the register in the masculine form.
With effect from 1 January 2022, the conditions previously required for the registration of a surname in the male form have been abolished (note: previously she had to be a foreigner; or a citizen who has or will have permanent residence abroad; or a wife of a foreigner; or a citizen with nationality other than Czech).
Surname of the divorced spouse
If one spouse has taken the surname of the other spouse, he/she may, within 6 months of the divorce, notify the Registry Office that he/she is taking back the original surname. The same applies if the spouse has an appended surname: he/she can notify the Registry that he/she will only be using the original surname.
This is an unilateral decision by the divorced spouse to return to the former surname. The other spouse (whose surname was common) has no means of forcing or preventing the change. The Registry Office does not decide on the change - it merely takes notice of it.