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In the Name of The Father........

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2020 1:02 pm    Post subject: In the Name of The Father........ Reply with quote

On January 1st 2005, a new law governing the naming of children in France came in to force. This marks the end of the use of the patronym, the convention under which a new-born child bears its father’s surname.

Henceforth, all infants born here to married parents may bear the surname of their father or of their mother or a combination of the two in any order. The motion was rushed through in 2002 during Jospin’s term in office as Prime Minister, then momentum was lost as the upper house set to work on it, redrafting and re-jigging. The new administration was left perplexed, but, nonetheless, under external pressure from Europe. The Council had required and requested that “both spouses be granted equal rights with regard to bestowing a family name upon their issue”.

It has taken nearly two years to draft the law and get it enacted. This has involved much head-scratching on government’s part. How to ask the question of the expectant parents? A joint declaration should be made at the Mairie was the solution. Then the notion of “parité” under the law further bogged the whole process down. What to do in case of disagreement between the parents? It was decided that the father’s name would be imposed.

Then the bureaucrats got stuck in. The practicalities have involved changing the corpus of forms which have anything to do with état civil and which now need to accommodate double-barrelled names. Computer systems needed changing. Officials needed training throughout France in order to deal with the problems which might crop up.

For example take the case of Mr and Mme Dupont. Mme Dupont was born Durant. She is delivered of a child, a son, after 1st January. The child may be called Dupont after its father, Durant after its mother or Dupont--Durant or Durant--Dupont. The latter two possibilities must have a double hyphen between the names. Siblings should bear the same surname as that of the eldest child. For families already with children, but where maman is expecting a baby to be named under the new law, it is not too late. Provided those children are less than 13 years old and their parents get cracking with the paperwork, there is until June 2006 to have a second name added.

Now, consider what happens when Dupont--Durant starts his own family and his wife is called Rivière--Dubois. What will they do? The law only allows two surnames.

Quite aside from the administrative practicalities, this law brings with it the sort of social implications which interest family psychologists, parents’ rights activists, feminists and genealogists.

One child psychologist here has been quoted in the French National Press opining the view that to give a child his or her father’s name gave that child a sense of importance, a sense of belonging. This gives weight to the argument of the fathers’ rights activists who allege that society is chipping away at their human rights.

Others see it as adding insult to injury in the case of the divorced mother who is the sole bread winner. An expert from the working-party and commission on the subject of family rights alleges that a third of divorced fathers no longer pay alimony and no longer see their children. Why then should these children bear any other name than that of their mother, he asks.

Genealogists are worried about what will happen to aristocratic names in cases where parents opt to choose the mother’s maiden name as the children’s surname. Whatever one’s station though, one wit observed, one should at least welcome the opportunity to lose names like Cocu and Connard.

Based on reportage Le Figaro, 31 December 2020.
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