Court corrects child’s surname

A number of witnesses confirmed that they heard the plaintiffs discuss the issue of the surname and had intended to register their child’s surname using the two surnames

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Malcolm Mifsud
24 June 2016, 9:08am
A Magistrate’s Court in Gozo allowed that a child’s surname be changed in order to reflect those of the parents. In was decided in Yunis Alex Tramboo and his wife Christabel Tramboo Galea -v- Director of Public Registry in Gozo by Magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri on 14 June, 2016.

In their application the plaintiffs explained that they were the parents of Crystal who was born in 2014. When they registered their daughter they told the clerk that their daughter’s surname should be Tramboo Galea. The following year the couple married. They then noticed that their daughter’s surname was erroneously listed as Tramboo and not Tramboo Galea. The couple asked the court to make a correction to reflect what they originally intended. 

The Director of Public Registry filed a statement of defence, that this was in fact the parents’ error. They had been asked to sign the registration form, which they did.

Magistrate Vella examined the evidence brought before the court, which included an affidavit presented by Christabel Tramboo Galea, who explained that since the child was born out of wedlock, she had discussed with her then partner that the child should have both surnames. They feared that if the child had only her foreign surname she would be discriminated against. They had plans to get married and therefore, the child would have the surname of both of them. She explained that when they went to register their child, the form was filled in by a clerk. The clerk asked which surname would the child have and both parents told her that it would be Tramboo Galea. The mother’s sister confirmed that she heard the plaintiffs discuss the issue of the surname and had intended to register their child’s surname using the two surnames. A number of witnesses confirmed the same thing. 

The clerk who registered the newly born baby testified but could not remember what was discussed on the day. According to the procedure used, she asks the parents a number of questions. The surname of the baby is not one of these questions, although the law allows that a child be given the surname of both parents. The information is put in the Registry system, which is then printed. In the section of the certificate where the names of the child are listed there is Crystal Tramboo.

The father of the child also testified, stating that the form was filled in by the clerk and a paper was pushed in front of them to sign and they signed.

The Court commented that if the only evidence had been that of the parents, then it would suspect that they had second thoughts and used this procedure to change the surname. However, the court could not brush the other evidence aside. The plaintiffs’ version of events is credible. On the other hand the clerk who filled in the registration details of the child mentioned that no questions are asked on the surname to be given  and the father’s surname is automatically listed. The Court suggested that an additional question should be introduced in order for such incidents to be avoided.

Magistrate Vella held she was convinced that the plaintiffs mentioned that the surname of their daughter should be Tramboo Galea, but for some reason or another only Tramboo was written down. The Court also commented that the form which the parents were asked to signed is confusing.

The Court then moved to uphold the request and ordered the change of surname of the young girl.

Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Associates.