Since 1 January 2005, assigning the father’s surname alone is no longer mandatory.

The choice of parents

When declaring a birth, parents can instead choose either:

  • to assign the surname of the mother alone,
  • or to assign both surnames in the order of their choice. The name chosen for the eldest child will then be assigned to all their siblings born later.

Procedure to change surname

Anyone who is able to demonstrate a legitimate interest may make a request to change their surname. The desire to change surname may be justified by the fact that the current one is:

  • difficult to bear because it might be perceived as ridiculous or derogatory,
  • the same as that of a famous person with a notorious reputation nationally.

The wish to retain one’s surname is, for example, legitimate in order:

  • to avoid the extinction of a surname that has been in use for a long time in the family, 
• to honour the constant and continuous use of a surname, if it has been used for a long time and publicly identifies the person (for example a doctor known as Dr Dupont although his passport indicates Durand),
  • to bear the same name as their siblings if all share the same father and mother.

The formalities

  • Post their application in the Official Journal and in a local newspaper authorised to publish legal announcements.
  • Transmit a complete file to the Minister of Justice or to the Public Prosecutor of the district court of the place of residence comprising: a copy of the birth certificate, where appropriate, a copy of the birth certificates of minor children and the written consent of those over the age of 13, a proof of French nationality, a photocopy front and back of the national identity card, a copy of section number 3 of the criminal record, a copy of the newspapers containing the announcement relating to the change of surname and, of course, a letter specifying the reasons for the request and the desired new surnames.
  • If the application is accepted, a decree issued by the Prime Minister will be published in the Official Journal.
  • For up to two months after the date of publication, third parties may oppose the change of surname by initiating proceedings before the Council of State.
  • If this is not the case, the change is deemed final; a request for correction of the birth certificate must then be made to the public prosecutor of the place of residence or place of birth.

Worth knowing

If the child then becomes a parent with a spouse or partner who also has a double-barrelled name, the couple will not be able to transmit their four last names. They can either each give just one of their respective surnames, or assign the two surnames of the mother or father.


Reference text

Law no. 2002-304 of 4 March 2002