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Woman’s legal fight prompts Ukraine to lift restrictions on name changes

Garnaga v. Ukraine | 2013

Woman’s legal fight prompts Ukraine to lift restrictions on name changes

. . .no justification for denying the applicant her right to decide on this important aspect of her private and family life was given. . .

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, May 2013

Background 

For years, Nataliya Garnaga lived with her mother, stepfather and half-brother. She wanted to associate herself more closely with her stepfamily by taking her stepfather’s surname and a patronymic name based on his given name. Nataliya’s stepfather is called Yuriy, so her patronymic would become Yuriyivna, according to the Ukrainian tradition. 

But when Nataliya applied to her local registration office to change her patronymic name, the request was refused. Officials told her that she could only change her patronymic name in the event of her estranged birth father changing his name.

Nataliya’s appeals to the Ukrainian courts were rejected. She decided to take her case to Strasbourg. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Ukraine’s restrictions on changing patronymic names breached Nataliya’s rights. 

Follow-up 

Nataliya was able to register her new patronymic name after the European court ruling in her case.

In 2020, Ukraine’s parliament changed the law to give everyone the right to choose and change their patronymic name.