Changing your name in Turkey

All around the world, certain people desire to change their names. We do not select our names, as we cannot choose our families, so usually a person can change his/her name on reasonable grounds. According to Turkish legislation, it is possible for a person to change his/her name by a court order. However, it is necessary to prove that the demand is not related to a fraudulent or other illegal purpose.

The applicant must provide a reasonable explanation for his/her wish to change his/her name or surname. Usually the judge has the limited discretionary power to accept or reject a case regarding a change of name provided that the change is deemed to be fraudulent or meaningless.

In Turkey, a person’s name cannot be misleading, confusing or an incitement to violence. Also, names that include racial slurs, threats or obscenity cannot be chosen.

The rules and procedures for a change of name are regulated by the Turkish Civil Code. According to Article 27 of the Turkish Civil Code, a change of name/surname can be accepted by a competent court if there is a valid reason. Such a valid reason will exist if a person’s given name is:

1. ridiculous,

2. contra bonos mores,

3. hard to write or spell,

4. meaningless or

5. unprecedented and hard to use in daily life.

In addition to the above, the reasons listed below are also considered valid by the court:

6. the person is known by another name, rather than his/her legal name,

7. the change is linked to religious conversion,

8. the name gives the impression that the person is connected with a notorious family or

9. the name has created psychological problems for its owner. If the person has a normal name and desires to change his/her name on this basis, the case must be supported by a psychiatrist’s report and witness statements.

It is important to be aware that the reasons above do not entitle people to certain rights to change their names. However, they do offer the opportunity to apply for a change of name. After that point, the process depends on the judge. In other words, the judge will decide whether there is a valid reason by reviewing the specific conditions of each case. The arguments and special reasons provided by the applicant to the competent court will be evaluated. Such reasons and arguments are evaluated by the court in the light of the social status, family relationships and personality of the applicant.

In line with Turkish legislation, the Civil Court of First Instance is the competent court for a change of name, and the birth registry office is the defendant in such cases.

Please note that witnesses are a key factor in cases for a change of name, and in most cases judges make their decisions by considering witness statements. If the court decides for a change of name, it is compulsory to announce and register such a change with the relevant birth registry office. In addition, since the change of name is a significant change for the individual’s identification information and must trigger several other changes, various government agencies, such as the Social Security Institution and the National Police Department (for a new passport and new driver’s license), must be informed, each of which may require legal proof of the change of name.

On a separate note, people who suffer as a result of a change of name can file a case for the decision to be cancelled within one year of learning of the decision.

NOTE: Berk Cektir is a Turkish lawyer and available to answer questions on the legal aspects of living and doing business in Turkey. Please kindly send inquiries to [email protected] If a sender’s letter is published, names may be disclosed unless otherwise is expressly stated by the sender.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to give basic legal information. You should get legal assistance from a licensed attorney at law while conducting legal transactions and not rely solely on the information in this column.