donderdag 8 november 2012

Lessons learned: Sharing a name, part II

In general, I'm all for equal rights for everybody whatever their skin colour, eye shape, sexual preferences, nationality or job (yes, that includes bankers - I have met many very nice finance people in Singapore).

However. Sometimes it can be a bit of an unexpected stumbling block. Or, as these situations are more commonly referred to: a pain in the ass.

Although I fully expect - and look forward to, generally - to spend the rest of my life with S. and we have one, almost two children together, we're not actually married. E. was born seven years to the night after we had gotten together, so it's not as if hurry prevented us from tying the knot. Neither is S. scared of commitment - I mean, he did lug both his women with him when he took a job halfway across the world. Nor am I scared of commitment - I gave up a very enjoyable job to follow him. When we moved out here we did put into place lots of legal stuff, so it's not even as if we're simply too laid back (or lazy) to get married. And S. did all the paperwork to make E. officially his*, so she is - even more so than mine, apparently.

No, there really isn't any reason why we're not married, except, that we never really saw a reason to get married in the first place. I love him, he loves me, we love our children who'll hopefully in due course start loving us as well. No need for more paper, we thought.

It's this paperwork that's tripped us up. 

See, in the Netherlands we are "registered partners", which is to all intents and purposes the same as being married (including, in fact, the manner and cost of getting it done). There are two exceptions; one, if either of us dies, the other does not automatically have a right to the deceased one's pension fund. We countered that by putting it in our wills. And two, both of us are the legal guardians of all children born within our union, but S. is NOT automatically assumed to be the legal father of any child born to me. 

This registered partnership-thing was set up for same sex couples originally, and in that scenario it does make sense not to assume the partner is the legal father of any child born. To remedy this, S. has to officially acknowledge that any child borne by me was fathered by him, meaning, he has to go to the municipality, point at me, say: "I impregnated her", I have to nod, we show our passports, they make a note in the system. Easy peasy.

Except that it can only by a Dutch municipality. Which Singapore is evidently not. And, no, as of January 2012 embassies don't perform these sort of mundane tasks anymore (budget cuts, less bureaucracy, and so on). So we'll have to get it done after the birth, which is fine, except for one thing: the baby'll need a passport before it can actually get on a plane to get acknowledged by its biological father.

And so the question I struggled with was: What last name does our newborn get?

The Dutch rules state that an unacknowledged child gets its mother's name. So mine.

The Dutch rules also state that once you've chosen a last name for your first child, all children born within the same union get the same last name. So S.'s name.

The Singaporean state gives children of unmarried mothers the mother's name, unless the father will swear to paternity (which I have no doubt that S.'ll be willing to do). 

All Dutch bureaucracy struggled with this question too. If we let the Singaporean state put S.' last name on the birth certificate, will there be a problem with getting a passport since following the Dutch rules this is not allowed? Nobody knew, neither the embassy where I first started asking questions, who referred me to the municipality who'll end up dealing with us as expats and who hadn't a clue, nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Why doesn't your partner fly back to the Netherlands to acknowledge the child?" a bureaucrat suggested at one point. "Because a new passport after the acknowledgement'll cost us 50 euros, whereas a plane ticket'll set us back 700 euros", I explained the economics of our position. "But it would be so much easier", he insisted. Well - I suppose that depends what end of the humungous unnecessary jet lag you're on, really. 

I was getting more and more tickled by the thought that our daughter would share a last name with her father, whereas our son would share one with his mother. Poetic justice is what they call that. To be sure, I emailed the embassy one final time, whether they would have a problem with issueing a passport with a technically temporarily illegal last name.

And then all of a sudden a short, crystal clear email dropped into my mailbox:

"The name that's on the birth certificate will be the one used in the passport." 

No more tickles and poetry, but lots of peace of mind. I'll not be a sharing a name with this one either. 

NaBloPoMo November 2012

* It's an utter myth and fabrication that in the Netherlands getting married is either cheaper or easier than having a child out of wedlock and doing the necessary paperwork to include the father legally into the framework afterwards. The cost of the whole thing is about 60 euros and it takes one visit to the municipality before birth, and a stamped envelop with some paperwork (birth certificate, copies of passports and this form) which has to be send to the local court after birth.

Even our registered partnership worked out a lot more expensive than this, as we took our families out for tea to celebrate afterwards.

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