Legitimate child shall bear father’s surname

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My wife was married to Ruben sometime in 2003. Their marriage failed, and they got separated the following year. From that time until 2011, my wife had not heard anything about Ruben despite diligent efforts to locate him. In 2012, my wife filed a petition for declaration of presumptive death, which was eventually granted by the court. We got married in 2014, and I also accepted my wife’s daughter with Ruben as my own daughter. I am the one attending the parents-teachers meetings every time the school of my stepdaughter conducts one. A problem arose, however, when my stepdaughter was ridiculed by her schoolmates because she was using a different surname.

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My wife and I talked regarding this matter, and we agreed that it would be favorable for my stepdaughter if the latter will use my surname. Further, if my stepdaughter will use my surname, it will erase confusion, and will place the child in a position as if she is my real offspring. Suppose we would file a petition in court, so that my stepdaughter could use my surname, will this case prosper?
Alvin

Dear Alvin,
Change of name (surname) is governed by Rule 103 of the 1997 Revised Rules of Court. You can avail of this legal remedy provided you have the legal grounds as so provided therein.

Among the grounds for change of name had been enumerated in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Magpayo (G.R. No. 189476, February 2, 2011; ponente, former Associate Justice and current Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales), which are as follows:

“(a) when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce;

(b) when the change results as a legal consequence such as legitimation;

(c) when the change will avoid confusion;

(d) when one has continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien parentage;

(e) a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without prejudicing anybody; and

(f) when the surname causes embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice public interest.”

In your situation, it is clear that none of the above enumerated grounds exists to support the petition you intend to file; hence, it will not prosper. In addition to that, confusion may arise if your stepdaughter will use your surname, because it will erase her true lineage. Remember that your stepdaughter is a legitimate child. A legitimate child shall bear the surname of the father, pursuant to Article 174 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

A similar case decided by the Supreme Court, Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Cynthia Vicencio (G.R. No. 88202, December 14, 1998; ponente, former Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing), stated that:

“The touchstone for the grant of a change of name is that there be proper and reasonable cause for which the change is sought. The assailed decision as affirmed by the appellate court does not persuade us to depart from the applicability of the general rule on the use of surnames, specifically the law which requires that legitimate children shall principally use the surname of their father.

Private respondent Cynthia Vicencio is the legitimate offspring of Fe Leabres and Pablo Vicencio. As previously stated, a legitimate child generally bears the surname of his or her father. It must be stressed that a change of name is a privilege, not a matter of right, addressed to the sound discretion of the court, which has the duty to consider carefully the consequences of a change of name and to deny the same unless weighty reasons are shown.”

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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