French MPs approve law making it easier to change name

The French parliament has approved a bill which would make it easier for citizens to change their surname via a simple new procedure.

The French Assemblée nationale has given the green light to a law allowing people to change their surnames more easily.
The French Assemblée nationale has given the green light to a law allowing people to change their surnames more easily. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

In France, around 85 percent of newborn children are given the surname of their father. 

Currently, French citizens can only adopt the surname of their second parent by going through a long and complicated legal procedure via the Ministry of Justice. 

But a new law approved by parliament on Thursday will make it possible to do so, once per lifetime, via a simple form submitted at the closest mairie (town hall) to the place of birth.

A pressure group that had lobbied for the law, Porte Mon Nom, celebrated the news on Facebook, writing: “this law reminds French people that the name of the mother has the same value as the name of the father.” 

Patrick Vignal, the MP who pushed the law through the Assemblée nationale, tweeted that the legislation was “a law of liberty”. 

Who will this benefit? 

About 3,000 French people attempt to change their surname every year according to the Ministry of Justice.  

The reasons for wanting to change surname, to that of the other parent, are myriad according to the vie-publique website: “because they carry a ridiculous or difficult to pronounce surname, to make their surname more French, to avoid a surname going extinct or to reveal the identity of an illustrious ancestor.” 

Some of the motivations might be darker, including wanting to abandon the name of a parent who is “incestuous, violent or neglectful.”

The new procedure will be available to around half of all people who want to change their surname every year. Those who do not want to adopt the name of another parent, but instead want to modify their family name by removing a syllable or making it more French, will still need to go through the Ministry of Justice. 

French citizens over the age of 18 will be able to submit dossiers to the mairie independently. 

Those under the age of 18 will need both parents to give their consent – if one parent refuses, there will be a legal process for appealing the decision. Those aged 13-17 will also need to consent personally to the name change. 

This legislation has now been validated but has yet to enter into effect. You can can keep track of its progression into law here

What about foreigners? 

If you have lived in France for some time, you will be aware that the French have a strange obsession with the use of birth certificates as a proof of identity. 

For some administrative procedures, such as getting Pacsé (entering into a civil partnership) or applying for a higher education bursary, you will be required to submit a copy of your birth certificate (in the former case, this must be a new official copy of the birth certificate less than 6 months old). 

The reason you would be asked for a recent copy of your birth certificate is that French ones are updated to include things like name changes, marital status or whether you legally identify as a gender that wasn’t assigned at birth. A birth certificate in France essentially serves as the ultimate record of your état civile (civil status). 

If you use a name which is different to the one listed on your birth certificate, many French institutions will be baffled and may refuse to validate an administrative procedure. 

The only way to get around this is to legally change your name via deed poll in your home country. You will need official proof of having done so (in the UK, the process costs £42.44 and is known as an enrolled deed poll) in the form of a certificate.

You will then need to get this certificate translated by a professional recognised by the French legal system (un traducteur agréé). Once this has been done, you can submit these documents along with the rest to explain that your legal name is not the one listed on your birth certificate. 

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Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend represents the first chance to 'faire le pont' and have a long holiday weekend - and the French seem set to make the most of it with warnings of extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday.

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

Thursday, May 26th marks the Christian festival of Ascension and is a public holiday in France.

More importantly, it’s the first time this year that French workers have had the opportunity to faire le pont (do the bridge) and create a long weekend.

In France, most public holidays fall on different days each year and if they happen to fall on the weekend then there are no extra days off work.

This year that happened on New Year’s Day (a Saturday) and both of the early May public holidays (the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th, which both fell on a Sunday).

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays

But as Ascension is on a Thursday, workers have the option to take a day of annual leave on Friday and therefore create a nice four-day weekend.

And it appears that many are planning on doing just that, as the traffic forecaster Bison futé is predicting extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday evening, as people prepare to make their after-work getaway and head to the coast, the countryside or the mountains to fully profit from their holiday weekend.

According to Bison futé maps, the whole country is coloured red – very heavy traffic – on both Wednesday and Thursday as people take to the roads to leave the cities.

Map: Bison futé

Meanwhile Sunday is coloured black – the highest level, meaning extremely heavy traffic and difficult driving conditions – across the whole country. 

Map: Bison futé

If you were hoping to take the train instead you might be out of luck, SNCF reports that most TGV services are sold out for over the holiday weekend.