Double surname for married couples could make a comeback in Switzerland

The Legal Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives has adopted a draft text on Friday, which provides for the possibility of giving a double surname to children.

The draft is more flexible than under the old law. In addition, it would be possible for husbands and wives or registered partners to decide, independently of each other, to bear a double name, with or without a hyphen.

Peter-Müller or Müller-Peter

Under the draft, couples would have two choices: either they take a joint surname so that both spouses bear an identical double name. Thus, they would both be called Müller-Peter.

Or each will keep his or her unmarried name, to which he or she can add the partner’s name. Thus, one would be called Müller-Peter, and the other Peter-Müller.

Double surname for married couples could make a comeback in Switzerland

Contrary to its original intention, the commission wants to allow children to bear a double name, formed from the parents’ names.

People who are already married or living in a registered partnership, as well as minor children of married or unmarried parents, are to be given the opportunity, by means of a simple declaration, to subsequently form a double name in accordance with the new law.

Change in 2013

Since 2013, engaged couples have had two options. At the time of marriage, they can keep their single name or choose one of the two as their joint surname.

The option for married couples to officially bear a double name without hyphens – like Susanne Leutenegger Oberholzer – disappeared. However, as an example, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter can continue to call herself by this name, as it has no legal value.

Children bear the joint surname or, if each parent has kept his or her unmarried name, the surname defined by the spouses at the time of their marriage. Parents may, however, change their minds and choose the name of the other spouse within one year of the birth of their first child.

The disappearance of the double name has been criticized on several occasions, on both the right and the left. In 90% of cases, the wife takes the husband’s name. In the opinion of the text’s author, former parliamentarian Luzi Stamm said this regulation does not achieve the desired goal of equality.