Marital status and changing family names in Hungary

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Marital status and changing family names in Hungary

Family names reflect that a certain set of people belongs together. In Hungary, children traditionally wear their fathers’ family name, while women also often change their name upon getting married. Knowledge about how this works may come in handy not only when preparing for your life in Hungary, but also when researching family documents for your citizenship application.

Changing your name when getting married

Traditionally, women change their name upon getting married to reflect that now they belong with the family of the husband. Nowadays this approach is getting considered more and more outdated, so more modern options are also available. Find an overview below, with examples added for each option.

Husband: Horváth József. Wife: Kocsis Mária.

  1. The married name of the wife will become Horváth Józsefné, adding the -né suffix to the name of the husband while deleting the original name of the wife. This is the most traditional name structure for married women, and it can become a bit baffling when they travel abroad and immigration officers try to determine which one is the lady’s given name. (The answer is: neither.)
  2. The married name of the wife will become Horváth Józsefné Kocsis Mária, adding the -né suffix to the name of the husband while keeping the original name of the wife. This is already better in the sense that at least the wife gets to officially keep her given name.
  3. The married name of the wife will become Horváthné Kocsis Mária, adding the -né suffix to the family name of the husband and keeping her original name. Currently this is one of the most popular options among married women in Hungary.
  4. Either of the parties can decide to abandon their original family name and take their spouse’s name instead, so the couple may end up as Horváth József and Horváth Mária, or as Kocsis József and Kocsis Mária.
  5. The couple can also decide to combine their family names, and after the wedding their family name can become either Horváth-Kocsis or Kocsis-Horváth (they must agree on the order though and use the same).
  6. Of course, the parties may also decide to keep their original names even after the wedding.

If you want to change your name when getting married, you must indicate this to the registrar in advance. After the wedding, you must check your paperwork and change your name in all your official documents (e.g. ID card, tax ID card) and registrations (e.g. at your bank and your utility providers).

It is best to do this as soon as possible, with one exception: if you are going on a honeymoon right after the wedding, and you have booked plane tickets and accommodation with your old names, it makes more sense to change your documents only when you are back.

What will the children be called?

As mentioned above, children usually inherit the father’s family name. However, there are some variations here too.

In our example, the given name of the child is Máté. To learn more about naming conventions and given names in Hungary, click here.

  1. The child may be called Horváth Máté if the father kept his original name, regardless of the name of the mother.
  2. The child may be called Kocsis Máté if the mother kept her original name, regardless of the name of the father.
  3. The child may be called Horváth-Kocsis Máté or Kocsis-Horváth Máté if both parents kept their original names or if they combined their family names (in this case, the family name of the child must be the same as the name of the parents).
  4. The child may be called Horváth Kocsis Máté or Kocsis Horváth Máté (without a hyphen) if both parents kept their original names.

If the parents are not married, the same rules still apply.

Changing the name of the family

If the husband changes his family name, that may affect the family name of his spouse and underage children.

  • If the name of the wife includes the family name of the husband, the name of the wife is changed automatically.
  • If a child under 14 wears the father’s family name, their family name changes upon request.
  • If a child between 14 and 18 wears the father’s family name, their family name changes only if they consent to the change.

Family names are often changed after a divorce

After a divorce, family names of all parties may stay the same; women are allowed to keep their married name with the -né suffix. However, it is also normal to change family names to reflect the change.

  • Parties can take back their original names.
  • Combined family names may be split.
  • The wife who has been wearing her husband’s name with a -né suffix can retake her original family name.
  • The wife is also allowed to keep the husbands family name while losing the -né E.g. Horváthné Kocsis Mária can become Horváth Mária.

The importance of family names

More than given names, family names indicate that family members belong together. When researching your family tree, being familiar with naming conventions can help you understand your family history and find the documents that confirm your lineage.

Need help with family tree research? The Helpers Team regularly provides this service as part of our Hungarian citizenship application products. Get in touch with us today!