Spain changes administrative guidelines on surname order

In the Spanish system every person has two surnames, one from the father and one from the mother. Until now, the father’s surname was automatically placed in the first position. But after June 30th of 2017, every couple registering their child’s birth will have to decide which surname order to use. If they cannot reach a decision, the Civil Registrar’s office will chose for them. This new directive is expected to change the ranking of the most common family names in Spain, which is currently marked by a high frequency of a small number of names. In the future, these frequent surnames are now anticipated to become rarer.

Spanish women do not change their surnames at marriage. There has, however, always been a certain flexibility about which of their two surnames Spaniards give most prominence.

Artist Pablo Picasso, for example, chose his second surname, as did the actor Antonio Banderas. Their first surnames, Ruíz and Domínguez respectively, were obviously too commonplace.