How to register your child’s name
Naturally, you are free to choose your child’s given names. However, under Belgian law, the Officier de l'Etat civil (General Registrar) may reject certain names. For instance, when it can lead to confusion (such as giving a boy what is generally considered to be a girl’s name or the other way round), when it is against the child’s interests (because it is offensive, absurd or ridiculous) or when it may cause damage to someone else (if an existing name is used as a given name, say).
If the General Registrar refuses to register a given name and the parents are unhappy about that decision, they can appeal to a civil court.
And what about the surname?
- In the past, if the parents were married (even if they were no longer living together or were in the process of divorcing at the time of the birth), then the child officially bore the name of the legal father.
- Since 1 June 2014, a new act concerning the child's surname has been in force:
A child whose paternal filiation and maternal filiation are simultaneously established shall bear either the name of his father, or the name of his mother, or a surname composed of both their names, in the sequence chosen by them and limited to one name for each of them.
The parents choose the name of the child at the time of declaration of the birth. The Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths records this choice.
In case of disagreement or in the absence of a choice, the child shall bear the name of his father.
A child whose filiation is established only on the mother's side, shall bear the name of his mother.
The child whose filiation is established only on the father's side, shall bear the name of his father. " (translation)
When, where and how to register a birth
The parent or parents have 15 days (including Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) to register the birth of a child at the service de l'Etat civil (Office of the Registrar) of the commune in which the child was born. This 15-day period only commences the day after the actual date of delivery.
You should take a number of documents with you when you go to register the birth of your child:
- Birth certificate (as issued by the hospital or midwife)
- Your identity card
- Any marriage certificate or declaration of paternal recognition.
When you register, you will receive a certain number of birth certificates, which you will need to apply for child benefit and register with a mutual insurance company, among other things.
The portal belgium.be provides comprehensive information on the formalities connected with the birth of a child.
Registering a birth at the maternity hospital
In some communes you can also register the birth of your child at the maternity hospital. Registering at the maternity hospital is generally the same as registering at the town hall and provides the same guarantees as to the authenticity of the certificate.
Hospitals and the Office of the Registrar must be equipped with a secure shared IT system, making registration of the same child at the town hall and the maternity hospital at the same time impossible.
In Belgium women with an employment contract in any capacity are entitled to legal maternity leave (FR/NL). And for several years now fathers have also been able to play a more active role in their baby’s life, thanks to paternity leave (FR/NL).
Some useful links:
Administrative formalities and documents:
Register a new-born child with the Office of the Registrar of the commune in which the child was born. For more details contact your commune.
- The 'ONE' (Office de la Naissance et de l'Enfance) publishes a whole range of information brochures for future parents (FR) . You can download them or order printed copies from the ONE website.
- 'Kind en Gezin' offers various publications (NL) to help you take on your role of parent. Visit the Kind & Gezin website.