Children taking their mother's name

14 Replies

Hi there, Happy Easter! Can anyone tell me exactly what the legal position is in Italy regarding surnames? In the UK an adult can take pretty much any name they choose, in France they are stuck with their father's name unless they undertake complicated legal procedings (this has been slightly changed recently to allow for double-barrelling of parents' names for children born since the new law came in, but is not retroactive). So what is the legal position in Italy? I recall reading an article a couple of years ago saying that Alessandra Mussolini was lobbying for a change in the law so her kids could use her (grandfather's) infamous name, but I read a novel last week (The Savage Garden: Mark Mills) in which the central characters were the Docci family living in Tuscany and the sons born in the 1920s took their mother's name (Docci) because she was an heiress with an estate which had been held by the Docci family since the villa was built in the 1500s. The daughter took the father's name. If this was legally possible, surely Ms Mussolini wouldn't need to be lobbying for change? Can anyone tell me whether this is based in law or just a novelist using poetic licence? Grazie tanto, Mel

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Skybeau 1206314474

Hi Mel.

I'm not sure what the legal position is, but have you currently got kids with a different name? I know I thought it was OK to begin with, but my son has his father's surname, which I didn't take when we got married. I'm now starting to think that I might change my name, or double barrel it, to make it easier.

Let me know what you find out. Good Luck!

"To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am."
Bernard M. Baruch

Melusina-764689 1206351448

Hi Skybeau,
I get the impression I'm in much the same situation as you:
my kids have their father's name which I didn't take when we got married. Of course I answer to it on the phone or in social situations, but professionally and on all my "documents" (bank account etc) I use my own (or to be strictly accurate, my father's) name.


Aquilegia 1207567341

Dear Melusina,

The child born within the marriage takes the surname of the father (the husband of the mother). The child born outside the marriage takes the name of the parent who first acknowledges the child. If both the parents acknowledge the child at the same time, he/she will take the father's. If the father wants to acknowledge the child afterwards in case of child of minor , he needs the mother's consent and then the Juvenile Court (Tribunale per i Minorenni) will decide which surname he/she will take.

There is no law yet that permits to choose the surname. One can always make an application to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to have the surname changed (art. 84 D.P.R. 396/2000), but You need a solid reason (importance of family name for instance).


Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

Melusina-764689 1207605059

Dear Ms Barbetti,
thank you for your informative reply - I now understand the present legal position - was this also the position in the 20th century (pre second world war)? (See the example quoted in my original post - was it possible for the sons to take their mother's name, despite their parents being married?)



sam-764510 1207737792

My children have their fathers surname, but after 10 years of not seeing him and i got married, We decided to change their surnames by deed poll in uk, so they can use our family name here,. Was told by deed poll it was acceptable throughout Europe, only to find in true Italian form it is not acceptable here. Anyway no longer matters as returning to uk.

Aquilegia 1207758282

Before DPR 2000/396 we had the Royal Decree of 1939 n. 1238 that permitted more or less the same possibilities of changing the surname (see artt. 165 and followings). The whole matter derives from the ancient Roman Family Law where the father gave the name (surname) to the Family.

After the Family Reform in 1975 the woman got more rights, also for the surname, for example the child born outside the marriage (the "natural" child) can now keep his/her mother's name. But still now, until a new law is made by the Parliament , the child born inside the marriage has his/her father's surname, while the natural one has wider opportunities regarding the surname. Apart the case of changing the surname, which you must ask alleging considerable reasons.


Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

Jenny-764402 1207829948

This is interesting stuff. Carlotta, do you specialise in family law? I am marrying an Italian and there are lots of stuff that I'd like to know about rights, kids in the case of break-up (I know it's not a nice thing to think about but I have to be practical) etc..... Does anyone know a good point of information for inter-nation marriages?

Aquilegia 1207860517

Jenny, You are definitely smart, don't feel being cynic, Most Italian woman know what the legal basic is here; foreigners need to get info somehow. Please write to my personal e-mail and will arrange an appointment if You want.

Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

Sarah-764748 1225047162

I think this law changed recently and children can now take the name of either parent.

Probably worth checking with a lawyer just the same.

avv. Carlotta Barbetti 1225121596

The Law on surnames has not changed yet.


first step in this direction: Italy has ratified the Treaty of Lisbona with Law 2 august 2008 n. 130 and therefore we shall have laws that have no sex discrimination from now on.

Second step: very recently, on sept. 22, 2008 our Supreme Court has made an "ordinanza" asking the "Sezioni Unite" of the S.C. to take a position and decide whether, with the law we now have, it is possible to have the mother's surname be given to the child if both the parents, legally married, agree upon it, since there is a gap in the law system for this particular case.

The Sezioni Unite of the S.C. is involved every time there is the need to have one only position inside the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.

Lets wait and see.

avv. Carlotta Barbetti

juliet falcone 1238362130

i have also been thinking about my situation and was wondering if anyone has had the same problem. i have two girls from a current 'convivenza' and they both have their father's surname. the father has no intention of marrying me so i would like to know my rights. if we break up in the future can i take the children back to australia? the 4 year old is already an australian citizen but the 18mth old isn't. what am i entitled to? we've been together for nearly 9 years.

regards juliet

celini 1238405826

Hi there!

I am married to an Italian too and we have recently moved here. Previously we lived in Spain where there are also rules on the surnames. One of my children had to have her father's name first. We now all have different surnames as our children were born in different countries!

If we had registered the birth with the British Embassy first, instead of the local commune..( I think within a month of the birth it has to be done) then we could have chosen surnames. It's always a good route to follow for a baby born outside the UK to a British parent. Register with the local Brit. embassy...then with that British Birth Certificate (which will allow you to choose surnames) you can then use those papers to register locally.

As for getting informed as to your rights etc. moving here, you are absolutely brilliant in doing so. It's not cynical....just smart.

Best of luck, Celine.

Aquilegia 1238436210

Be careful of the Aja Convention 1980 on ... legal kidnapping.

It is a crime to take the children permanently to another country without the other parent's consent.

What I suggest is to find an agreement with the father.

Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

Aquilegia 1238436355

In this case I suggest to try to change the surname in order that all the kids have the same surname. You make application to the Prefettura.

Avv. Carlotta Barbetti

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