Spanish naming customs are historical traditions for naming children practiced in Spain and Spanish speaking Latin America. While the first surname is usually your father’s, Spain now allows surname transposition due to gender equality laws.

Costa Rica is looking to so the same.

Costa Rican children are usually given two surnames: the first surname is the father’s first surname, and the second the mother’s first surname.

According to Spanish naming customs, a person’s name consists of a given name followed by two family names (surnames). The first surname is usually the father’s first surname, and the second the mother’s first surname.

In Costa Rica, the Registro Civil (Civil Registry) is based on that system. For example, if a man named Eduardo Martinez Gutierrez has a child named Karol with a woman named María Ruiz Fernandez, the child’s last names would be Karol Martinez Ruiz.

Foreigners from countries where only one surname is used, when obtaining Costa Rican citizenship are required to follow the same two surname system. For example, William Shatner, if his mother’s maiden name is Garmaise, his full legal name in Costa Rica would be William Shatner Garmaise.

In recent years, the order of the surnames can be decided at birth due to Spanish gender equality law that has allowed surname transposition since 1999, subject to the condition that every sibling must bear the same surname order. From 2013,in Spain, if the parents of a child were unable to agree on the order of surnames, an official would decide which is to come first, with the paternal name being the default option. Since June 2017, adopting the paternal name first is no longer the standard method, and parents are required to sign an agreement wherein the name order is expressed explicitly.

That change in tradition is now being discussed in Costa Rica.

In 2016, Patricia Mora, while a legislator of the Frente Amplio party and now the current Ministra de la Condicion de la Mujer, presented a bill in the Legislative Assembly to allow surname transposition.

This week, the Procuraduría General de la República (Attorney General’s Office) endorsed the initiative, allowing the change to move forward in the legislative process.

Like the example set in Spain, couples would at the time the eldest child is born, have the discretion to choose which surname will have priority: that of the mother or that of the father. The following children, if any, would carry the same order.

If the bill passes into law, it would amend articles 49 and 52 of the Civil Code (Código Civil) and which currently defines that the father’s name goes before the mother, and article 104 of the Código de Familia (Family Code) with respect to adopted children

For the Procuraduría, in its opinion said that the current laws “are discriminatory towards women and contrary to the principle of equality of spouses”.

The change would apply only new registrations and not to those already registered.

The bill is currently stuck in the Comisión de Asuntos de la Mujer de la Asamblea Legislativa (Women’s Affairs Committee of the Legislative Assembly).

 


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