Naming the child of Bulgarian nationals or in certain cases, one born in Bulgaria to non-nationals, is a matter regulated by the Bulgarian Civil Registration Act (“CRA”).
Unlike the procedure elsewhere, changing a name which is officially recognised needs the assistance of the Court. The applicant must persuade the judge that the change of name is important.
The guiding principle determining whether you bear Bulgarian citizenship is the ius sanguinis (or “what your blood is"), as opposed to ius soli (“where you were born”). Under Art. 8 of the Citizenship Act, a Bulgarian citizen is anyone, at least one parent of whose is a Bulgarian citizen.
At the same time, according to Art. 3, a Bulgarian national who is also a national of another country is treated as if he or she were exclusively a Bulgarian national when applying Bulgarian law, unless otherwise provided by that law.
Therefore, any child born in a family where at least one spouse is a Bulgarian citizen, automatically acquires Bulgarian citizenship, which leads to the general application of the CRA rules in formulating and determining the name.
The name of the Bulgarian citizens born in Bulgaria, under current law (Art. 9 CRA) consists of three parts: first, middle and surname, which are entered on the birth certificate.
The provisions of Art. 12–14 CRA outline the rules and restrictions on the various parts of the name.
According to Art. 12(1), the first name of each person is selected by the parents who notify the civil status officer preparing the birth certificate.
According to Art. 13, the middle name of each person is formed from the first names of the father adding the suffix -ov or -ev and suffix according to the gender of the child, unless the first name of the father does not allow the placement of these suffixes or they conflict with the family, ethnic or religious traditions of the parents.
Art. 14(1) states that a surname is formed by the family or the father's middle name with the suffix -ov or -ev and suffix according to the gender of the child, unless the family, ethnic or religious traditions of the parents dictate otherwise.
The law is unclear what the position is where the traditions of the parents differ, but more generally, it may be concluded that the law generally allows deviation from the general naming rules as it acknowledges the possible cultural, social and domestic reasons.
To take a comparison, in contrast to the legal situation in Bulgaria, the UK regulates the initial definition and change of names very lightly. Changing any name is very simple – by a unilateral act (deed poll), signed by a witness. In addition, UK law allows "dropping" of the surname, ie there is wide scope for determining someone's name.
The children born to a mixed Bulgarian and British couple, apart from legally, are also socially and culturally tied to the traditions of both countries. Since Bulgarian law makes room for these multicultural particularities, there is an argument that it would allow using a name which is appropriate in a part of the UK. While the Court cases reported earlier were initially very conservative, more recent decisions show some breakthroughs. In future, Bulgarian Courts might generally make it easier for someone connected to Bulgaria or for his or her parents (while that person is a minor in the eyes of the law), to change their name.
New Balkans Law Office regularly advises parents of minors and independent adults on naming and change of name issues and we will be happy to advise. Please contact us for further information or to discuss your matter.
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