Rules about names

While the Belgian government doesn’t interfere too much in how you name your child, there are a few things to take into consideration.

The first name

Parent(s) are of course free to choose their child’s first name. However, Belgian law allows for the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths to reject names in certain cases:

  • when the name may be confusing, e.g. giving a girl what is generally considered to be a boy’s name or vice versa;
  • when it is ‘against the child’s interests’, e.g. because it is offensive or ridiculous;
  • when the name may cause damage to someone else e.g. if an existing family name is used as a first name.

If the Registrar refuses to a certain first name, parents can appeal the decision.

And what about the family name?

In the past, a baby officially took its legal father’s last name if the parents were married – this was the case even if the parents were not living together or were going through divorce proceedings at the time of the birth.

In 2014, Belgium made some major changes to how last names are determined, to offer more equality between the mother and father .

In accordance with the parent(s) wishes, a baby can have, as last name:

  • the father’s last name; or
  • the mother’s last name; or
  • a last name composed of both the mother’s and father’s last names (limited to one name each). They can choose the order of the names.

If the parents cannot agree, or no explicit choice is given, the child is given the father’s last name.

The above also applies to adopted children.