Although a revision of the Civil Code in 2007 has allowed parents to decide whether their children should bear the father’s or the mother’s family name, the vast majority of parents still choose to follow tradition when it comes to picking a surname for their children, the Ministry of the Interior said.
“Prior to the revision in 2007, the Civil Code stipulated that children should bear the family name of their father, with very few exceptions allowed, but the law was changed to allow parents to freely decide whether a child should bear the father’s or the mother’s surname for the purpose of protecting gender equality,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) said.
“Six years after the amendment was passed, our data up to last year shows that the vast majority of children born during the period — numbering about 1.14 million, or 95.15 percent — still bear their fathers’ surnames, and only 18,487 children — accounting for 1.54 percent — bear their mothers’ surnames,” Hsiao said.
The rest are children who bear their adoptive parents’ family names, or Aboriginal children with community names.
The data show that tradition is still an important factor when deciding children’s surname, Hsiao said.
However, if a child’s parents cannot reach an agreement on the surname, they may apply to decide the surname by drawing lots at their local household registration office, Hsiao said.
“Interestingly, in about 80 percent of the cases, it is the mother’s family name that wins in a surname draw,” Hsiao said.
As of last year, 1,623 children’s surnames were decided by drawing lots. Among them, 1,295 ended up with the mothers’ surnames, while only 329 were given the fathers’ surnames, data showed.
Although lot-drawing for family names is done in public, witnessed by household registration officials and recorded, many parents are not happy about the results, Department of Household Registration Director Wanda Chang (張琬宜) said.
“We’ve encountered a case in which a mother who came to the household registration office along with all the required documents and applied to decide her child’s family name by a draw, but was not happy about the result, so she just walked away before making the registration, and came back the second day to make another draw,” Chang said.
“We had to allow her to do that, because she did not complete the legal process to register her child’s birth, and it counted as a new application when she came back the next day,” Chang added.
There has also been a case in which a father did not show up at the draw and was not happy about the result, and therefore sued the household registration office.
“We won the case, as we normally do in such cases, since we always make sure that the draw process meets all legal requirements,” Chang said.