On the 3rd of April this year Klaipeda District Court issued a decision about the original spelling of a letter „w“ in a marriage certificate. Whereas the European Foundation of Human Rights has won over 40 cases in Lithuanian courts, it is the first court ruling in Klaipeda.
In 2018 applicant got married to a citizen of Switzerland and took his surname in its original form which is Leutwyler. However, The Klaipeda‘s Registrar’s Office rejected the addition of the surname with “w” to the records. Legal action has been taken in this situation.
In the given case the Court acknowledged that the rejection of the addition of the surname to the records and of the issue of marriage certificate with husband’s name will cause administrative, personal and professional nuisances, related to the change of existing documents confirming the identity, as well as the authentication of these documents, and in the future potential problems with legalization of common assets and/or experiencing difficulties in inheritance, acquisition of real estate or marital common ownership. Further, in view of the fact that the applicant and her husband travel a lot, she is forced to prove her identity in every country. Unmistakably it brings many inconveniences. According to the Court, the rejection of the addition to civil status records is disproportional to the nuisances.
European Foundation of Human Rights underlines that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has emphasized that regulating the spelling of names and surnames poses a liability for every member country and, moreover, it is closely connected with culture, linguistic history and a sense of identity. According to the ECtHR, if similar names are already registered and have no negative impact upon maintaining cultural and linguistic identity, the national authorities have no reason to refuse the registration of a particular name or surname. The same goes for their subsequent change as well.
Evelina Dobrovolska, a lawyer and representative of families fighting for the original spelling of names and surnames, emphasizes that the winners do not experience any inconvenience – having entered the name with the “w”, “x” or “q” in the civil status record, this name also appears in the population register. Regrettably, the court ruling cannot change the law.