• 2021/08/09

The Court stated: the refusal to enter the surname “W.” in the marriage record infringes the private life of the applicant and her family

The Court stated: the refusal to enter the surname “W.” in the marriage record infringes the private life of the applicant and her family

On 15 April 2021, the District Court of Vilnius City issued a decision which obliged the Civil Registry Office (CMS) to register the marriage of the applicant D. M. and Ł. W., concluded in the United Kingdom, entering the surname of D. M. as “Wesolowska”. That decision has now become final. The decision has already become final.

In this case it was established that in 2017, the applicant (a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania), D. M., married Ł. W., who is a Polish citizen. The CMS refused the applicant’s request to register the marriage under the surname “Wesolowska” and offered her the option of having her preferred surname Lithuanised by replacing the consonant “W” with the Lithuanised form “V”. The applicant claimed that the decision of the Vilnius CMS violated her rights and legitimate interests of her family, and caused her a great deal of inconvenience as she had to prove her relationship with her spouse each time with additional documents. The woman, a Lithuanian citizen and resident in the UK, requested help from the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR), which has extensive and long-standing experience in representing clients in cases concerning the right to the original spelling of names and surnames.

In the view of the District Court of Vilnius City, the refusal to record a surname with a letter “W” infringes applicant’s rights, in particular the right to private life laid down in Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as applied by the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. As can be seen from the legal framework discussed in this decision and the case law interpreting it, the use of one’s own name and surname is an integral part of the right to private and family life, and that State interference in this regard by prohibiting the original spelling of a person’s name and surname can only be done if it is a proportionate means of achieving legitimate aims.

The right to private and family life is also protected by Article 22 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, according to which a person’s private life shall be inviolable, and the law and the court shall ensure that no one is subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her private and family life. In the Court’s view, prohibiting the entry of a surname with the letter “W” would also lead to a violation of the principle of the inviolability of private and family life and a violation of the right to a name (Article 2.20 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuan

The District Court of Vilnius City also recalled that it is common ground that such a discrepancy in surnames is liable to cause serious inconvenience for those concerned at both professional and private levels resulting from, inter alia , difficulties in benefiting, in one Member State of which they are nationals, from the legal effects of diplomas or documents drawn up in the surname recognised in another Member State of which they are also nationals (see for example Judgment of the Court of Justice of 2 October 2003 in case C-148/02, Garcia Avello).

The Court, taking into account the circumstances indicated by the applicants, the practice of national and international courts and the position of the State Commission for the Lithuanian Language that some exceptions are possible, and one of them is that the surnames of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who enter into a marriage with citizens of a foreign state and take their surnames, may be written in Latin letters, finds that the current situation does not comply with the principle of fairness and is disproportionate in regard to the possible consequences which the applicant would suffer if her and her spouse’s surnames were written differently.

The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) provides legal assistance to people facing the problem of the original spelling of their names and surnames in personal documents. Legal assistance is provided by EFHR lawyers and attorneys from well-known law firms cooperating with the Foundation. Legal assistance includes advice, drafting of documents and representation in courts. If you are interested, please register by email info@efhr.eu, phone + (370) 691 50 822.

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