Under German law the use of a name by each spouse is subject to the applicable law of his or her home country (Art. 10 of the Introductory Act on the German Civil Code).
Meaning, the German spouse’s name is only subject to German law. His or her name does not change unless a name declaration is done alongside or subsequent to the marriage.
Family name upon marriage between a German citizen and a foreign citizen abroad
I. Upon marriage in Germany the spouses may choose a joint marriage name. The respective name will then be entered into their marriage certificate. If they do not determine a certain family name each spouse will retain his or her present name.
II. If a marriage takes place abroad, the choice to determine a certain marriage name is not always given to the spouses since foreign law is often lacking such provisions, especially with regard to equal choices of both spouses. As a result, the German spouse as far as the German law on names is concerned retains the name he or she had prior to the marriage (separate use of names).
However, the German law on names does provide for a subsequent “declaration on the name in marriage” to obtain the respective name (i.e. the joint marriage name). This declaration can be done for as long as the marriage persists. The declaration is irrevocable.
Selection of German law:
Please note that when selecting German law only the husband’s or the wife’s family or maiden name can be choosen as marriage name. Only when choosing German law the husband or the wife respectively may add his or her previous name or maiden name to the marriage name to form a double-barrel name (sec. 1355 para. 4 of the German Civil Code).
Selection of foreign law:
Please note: You may also choose the law on names according to the laws of your spouses nationality. When doing so you may only choose a name in accordance with the provisions of these laws.
Please thouroughly fill in the name declaration for the use of name in a marriage ("Erklärung über die Namensführung in der Ehe") together with your partner. Then both sign the declaration with your current name under German law and in presence of a member of the German Missions. The declaration is done at a fee of 25 Euro, payable in ZAR according to the applicable exchange rate at the time. An additional fee is applicable for the certification of the required certificates. An additional fee of 10 Euro, payable in ZAR according to the applicable exchange rate at the time is applicable for the certification of the copies of the supporting documentation, these fees can be paid in cash or credit card (Master and Visa cards only),please note that the copies must be certified by the German Mission.
Please hand in the declaration and the following additional documents plus two ordinary (not certified) copies each to the competent German Mission, please note that all South African certificates must be unabridged:
- Passport and ID both Spouses
- Marriage certificate (unabridged)
- Birth certificates of both spouses (unabridged)
- Divorce decree (if relevant)
- Death certificate of late spouse (if relevant)
- Proof of German citizenship, ie. German citizenship certificate/naturalisation certificate/ German birth certificate/Birth certificate of German parent
Erklärung Ehegatte - Namensführung [pdf, 243.74k]
The German Missions will pass your declaration along to the competent public registrar in Germany who will issue a certificate on your use of name in marriage. Please be advised, that an additional fee needs to be paid into the account of the public registrar in Germany for the certificate stating your new family name.