Change of Surname in Greece
Our surname constitutes a characteristic of our personality, however the way we get it or we wish to change it does not form part of our own personal will, but it is in principle a matter of the state, an issue which is closely related to the safety of transactions and of all legal relations, be them of public or private law, thus such a change has to go through the administrative channels of the official State.
According to legislative decree 2573/1953: “…the acquisition and the change of surname, as well as the acquisition of father’s or mother’s name by children who have been born out of wedlock when it comes to their parents, or by parents unknown to them, occurs by order of the Prefect”. At Chapter C’ of the already published under nr. Φ.42301/12167/28-06-1995 decision following the aforementioned legal provision, the below is stated: “1. In order to have a surname changed an application is to be submitted to the Prefect by the interested party … in which it has to be mentioned in detail the reason for which this specific change is sought for, whereas it has to be stated the surname which is favorable to be acquired. This application is forwarded to the prefect who is competent to undertake it as per the municipality or the community at hand, and in particular to the Register of Males or the Central Register wherein the applicant is registered. …. The prefect orders at his/ her own expense the publication of an excerpt of the application regarding the change of surname in one of the newspapers that circulate within the capital or the prefecture of the county, or of the neighboring prefecture. This excerpt must include exact details of the name, the profession, the place and year of birth and residence of the applicant, of the surname which is sought to be acquired, as well as an invitation to anyone who might be opposed to such a change so as for the latter one to be able to submit a statement of objections against such a change. 3. After fifteen (15) days’ time the prefect issues a reasoned decision according to which the application is accepted or rejected. According to the same decision, the prefect decides simultaneously on the objections possibly raised against such a change. The prefect’s decision accepting the change is notified to the Authorities that keep records in form of a Central Register and a Register of Males, to the Penal Register of the Competent Court Authority, to the Prosecutor’s Office and to the Police Authorities of the place of residence of the applicant, as well as to the applicant himself/ herself in order to be able to present it to the Police Authorities at the time he/ she applies for the issuance of the new identity card…”. The prefect’s competency has been appointed anew according to law 3852/2010 to the competent departments of Municipalities.
Therefore the competent administrative body shall be taking into consideration the arguments presented by the applicant regarding the change of surname and depending on the validity of the arguments presented, it shall be reaching its decision. The Law does not specifically name the exact reasons as such according to which a surname change may take place, however the case-law of the Supreme Court of State suggests that “particular and important reasons have to be presented to justify such a surname change”, as for instance, grave psychological problems caused when the surname at hand sounds in a foul way or it is difficult regarding its pronunciation, the surname is linked to someone else’s bad reputation who also bears it (e.g. an adult is seeking to change its surname because his/ her parent had been a certified criminal, thus now the former adult finds himself/ herself in a deeply awkward situation), his/ her current extreme alienation from his/ her family environment, especially with people relating to his/ her father’s family members etc.
If such a request regarding surname change gets rejected, an appeal to reconsider shall be brought before the General Secretariat of the competent Decentralized Prefecture within specifically 30 days’ time, and if this one gets rejected as well , it is only then that an application to have it invalidated can be submitted before the Supreme Court of the State.
A change of Name [regarding a natural person] in Greece
A change of name can take place in Greece according to a decision reached by a Court adjourned as per the procedure initiated voluntarily by interested parties/ citizens, whenever a “grave reason” is at hand, as for instance and in practice happens when someone feels like he/ should have a change in his/her name due to reasons related to religious beliefs, or due to the fact that he/ she has been using a specific name in his every-day transactional life, or due to the fact that he/ she has acquired Greek citizenship therefore he/ she feels that his/ her name has to sound more Greek, or due to the fact that unwanted repercussions follow his/ her everyday life because his/ her name sounds awful, or due to the fact that a new name is necessary for reasons related to change of religious beliefs etc. In addition it is more than justified the change of name in the case of an adoption, in particular when in case the name of the minor child has no relation whatsoever to the family-ies of the adopting parents, and as a result a problem surfaces, linked specifically to the actual incident of the adoption as such which becomes obvious.
The Applicant’s lawyer who shall prepare the application regarding the change of name has to include all those reasons arguing in favor of the change. The application shall be submitted to the competent Court and it has to be also notified to the Prosecutor’s Office. As soon as the decision has been reached and after having been declared final, it should be registered with the competent Municipality Register – in order to have the relevant details of the natural person at hand changed with regards to his/ her registration and his/ her birth certificate – , and with the General Register wherein his/ her name has been recorded.
A note regarding the change of Name of a foreigner who has successfully undergone the procedure of acquiring Citizenship
1. According to single article of the legislative decree under nr. 2573/1953, as it has been replaced by par. 1 article 8 of Law 2130/1993 and which is currently valid according to par. 9 situation 2 of article 9 Law 2307/1995, the following persons are eligible to proceed with the change of their names and surnames by constituting them more Greek:
- Greeks residing abroad
- Foreigners of same ethnic [greek] group that have acquired Greek nationality
- People of same ethnic [greek] group that have recently moved to Greece and already have Greek nationality
2. The change of name both of foreigners having acquired citizenship (be them of same [greek], or different ethnic group) and of Greeks by birthright, does not fall within the provisions of legislative decree 2573/1953, therefore it does not fall within the competency of a Mayor as per the provisions of par. 6 of article 94 of law 3852/2010 (official gazette 87 Α΄). The only option offered by the aforementioned legislative decree is the naturalization of the foreign name which is only about those same ethnic group citizens, and it is all about the transformation in “a more Greek way” of the name, by meeting the applicant’s likings.
3. The registration of the naturalized foreigners, either of same ethnic group or of a different one, with the City Registers and the Central Registers of Males, shall be occurring by having as fundamental argumentation the relevant decision of naturalization and by setting forth the details of name and surname already registered as such. According to the legal provisions at ahnadin order to acquire Greek nationality via the naturalization procedure, the foreigner who wishes to become a Greek citizen needs to submit a relevant application, supported among others by an original birth certificate which has been issued by the competent authority of the country of origin which also constitutes the most important of all documents, given that this is where details regarding the applicant shall be obtained.
4. Should the applicants present their name certificates at a later time, no repercussions shall be caused as far as the Greek legal state of things is concerned, or with regards to their civic situation, unless there has been a serious amendment of the sort regarding their naturalization procedure
The change of name that has occurred due to name acquisition process via baptizing and which has taken place before the naturalization process as such, it shall cause legal results and consequences in the Greek State only if there has been a birth certificate already registered with a foreign authority in order for the latter one to be registered alongside the Naturalization decision
Furthermore and according to the Expert Opinion under nr. 65/1991issued by the Legal Board of the State in order for the change of a name to occur in Greece and especially with regards to a change of name that gas previously occurred abroad either via an administrative or a judicial way, there has to be followed a procedure of recognition of the res judicata of that foreign procedure according to the provisions of article 905 of the Greek Procedural Civil Code , in other words the administrative or the judicial act thanks to which that change occurred has to be properly recognized.
In the case of adult men who wish to have their name and surname changed by having previously done so abroad thus now they wish to have it officially recognized here as well, that sort of change has to be registered with the Registers of Males at the competent Municipality where they have been registered (article 13 law 2119/1993 in close combination with par.7 of article 280 law 3852/2010), due to the importance it is reserved by the State for the proper recording of the details of the male Greek nationals, according to the decision of the competent body, i.e. of the Secretary General of the Decentralized Prefecture
Just for your information and for the sake of clarity the initial article regulating the changes of details of records regarding birth registrations in Greece has been article 14 law 344/1976, which later on got amended by article 4 par.5 of law 4144/2013, (Official Gazette Α 88/18.4.2013) that reads as follows:
Changes occurring with regards to the state-of-being of a natural person after the registration of acts with the Central Register due to legalization, recognition, denunciation, dispute, contention of fatherhood, or due to the adoption of a child, or even due to termination or cancelation of marriage, cohabitation agreement, addition or change of name, surname, nationality, religious belief or change of sex, have to be registered within the data framework of article 8Α that reads “Changes” within a month’s time from the moment they occurred by submitting the relevant administrative act or that certificate regarding the finalization of the relevant court decision. In particular, the certificates with regards to the finalization of termination or cancelation of marriage in order to be presented before any competent state or municipal authority, have to bear a note issued by the competent Registrar that a copy of them has been submitted to him/ her and that the relevant change has been registered within the data framework of article 8Α and that the marriages that have taken place before the introduction of the currently valid law have been properly registered and the changes relating to them have been noted accordingly in the margins of the each time relevant marriage registration [article 4 par.5 of law 4144/2013, (Official Gazette Α 88/18.4.2013)