Costa Rica has recently made a groundbreaking legal change that allows individuals over 18 years old to choose the order of their last names. This reform offers people the freedom to prioritize either their mother’s or father’s last name, ending the long-standing tradition of the father’s surname coming first.

While Americans and other nationalities typically have one last name, Costa Ricans traditionally have two. The father’s last name has always taken precedence over the mother’s, but now Article 49 of the Civil Code no longer enforces this order.

The Constitutional Chamber examined the article and found it violated equality before the law and discriminated against women. Most constitutional judges agreed that having the man’s surname come first was based on outdated, patriarchal family norms and had no reasonable justification.

The judges also determined that requiring a specific order for surnames limited individuals’ rights to develop their personality and identity. However, the court specified that this reform does not apply to same-sex couples, minors, or those with only a mother’s last name. These individuals must seek new legal consultations to change their names.

Key Takeaways From Article
1. Costa Rica has recently enacted a progressive legal change that allows individuals over 18 years of age to modify the order of their last names. This eliminates the long-standing obligation to prioritize the father’s last name.
2. Traditionally, Costa Ricans bear two last names, with the father’s surname typically taking precedence over the mother’s surname. However, this new reform offers individuals the autonomy to choose their preferred sequence.
3. The change was brought about by a discussion centered around Article 49 of the Civil Code, which formerly mandated a specific order of surnames. The phrase “in that order” has now been removed, marking a significant departure from tradition.
4. The reform was prompted by the Constitutional Chamber, which found that the previous arrangement violated the principle of equality before the law and discriminated against women.
5. This progressive measure does not extend to same-sex couples, minors, and individuals with only the mother’s surname. In these cases, a new judicial consultation would be necessary to effect the desired change.
6. The court emphasized that this reform promotes the right to free development of personality and identity, challenging patriarchal and outdated views of the family.


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