Married woman not obliged to use husband’s surname

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Is it mandatory for a wife to use her husband’s surname?

Dear Nica,

Under the law, a married woman may use the surname of her husband. This is clearly provided by the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which states:

“Art. 370. A married woman may use:

(1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or

(2) Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname or

(3) Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as ”Mrs.””

It is clear that the above law gives a married woman the option to use the surname of her husband. Since it is discretionary, a married woman is not obliged to use her husband’s surname. In the case of Maria Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs (G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010), the Supreme Court explained:

“Clearly, a married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by Article 370 of the Civil Code. She is therefore allowed to use not only any of the three names provided in Article 370, but also her maiden name upon marriage. She is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married because when a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status. Further, this interpretation is in consonance with the principle that surnames indicate descent.”

It is settled in the aforesaid case, however, that if a married woman started to use the surname of her husband in her passport, she cannot revert to the use of her maiden name unless her marriage to her husband has already been annulled, declared null and void or she was divorced by her husband and the divorce was already recognized in the Philippines. The Supreme Court in the said case also explained:

“In the case of renewal of passport, a married woman may either adopt her husband’s surname or continuously use her maiden name. If she chooses to adopt her husband’s surname in her new passport, the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] additionally requires the submission of an authenticated copy of the marriage certificate. Otherwise, if she prefers to continue using her maiden name, she may still do so. The DFA will not prohibit her from continuously using her maiden name.

Once a married woman, however, opted to adopt her husband’s surname in her passport, she may not revert to the use of her maiden name, except in the cases enumerated in Section 5(d) of Republic Act 8239. These instances are: (1) death of husband, (2) divorce, (3) annulment or (4) nullity of marriage. Since petitioner’s marriage to her husband subsists, she may not resume her maiden name in the replacement passport. Otherwise stated, a married woman’s reversion to the use of her maiden name must be based only on the severance of the marriage.”

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you in your concern.

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


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  1. Sillyn C. Saravanan on

    Dear Pao, I live In Kuwait. I’m Married to an Indian,when he applied for my Visa with old Passport which Had my Family name got rejected.the reason was my passport didn’t have husband’s surname. If i don’t i use my husband’s surname my husband cant be My sponsor,so I don’t think it will work In middle east countries.

  2. Dear Atty.Acosta,kapag ang isang real state po ba may lease contract valid for 15 straight may conditional sale agreement ( contract) to payable in one year, at hindi rin nagmaterialized dahil sa hindi ito natupad ng tama at isa pa po ang totoong amount ay dinaya at may katibayan ang may ari..pero kinilalala na ito ng korte..dahil sa pagkukulang daw ng may ari na makasipot sa mga pagdinig..ito po ba ay sapat na para isalin sa bagong may ari ang titulo?rtc.branch 42 cc#2081..ang nakasaad po sa lease ay hindi ito pweding itransfer sa iba at sa aking paniniwala ito po ang dapat masunod pero dahil pinaboran sila ng korte ..nagbaba po ang korte ng desisyon at order na maipapatransfer na sa iba ang titulo,,,tama po ba ang violation of Art.182 for False Testimony?ipafile ko para habulin ang aking property..please atty.gusto ko po sanang pumunta sa iyo ng personal…noon ko pa po kayo gustong makausap ng personal para sa kaso po na ito…may fiscal po kasi ditong involved..lubos po akong umaasa na mababasa mo itong kaso ko…may God lead me to see you in person..Gumagalang,Mayeth

  3. that can be easily circumvented by bringing the child’s birth certificate and/or other related documents during travel.

    many married women in arab countries don’t carry their husbands’ names as well, as an indication of descent (as per religious/cultural mores). i would assume this practice does not pose difficulties for them while traveling with their children.

  4. I would like to ask & be clear how about if the husband leave his wife to other women for 9 years up to now ? how will & what should she used than now?

  5. Dear Pao, i,m glad cause i saw your add in The Manila Times.I’m married for 17 years but my husband they left us with my 3 kids.We are separated for 12 years without any help to our kids.I work and stand to my own fit to support to my kids till now.when we start separate he fund one woman and they married last year June 2013.they had 3 kids also but we still married.I want to ask still valid our married or not.For me i don’t want anymore his family name.but how?Please Pao, help me about my problem.kindly Rosalie

    • Your marriage is still subsisting. You can file a case against your husband for bigamy. He is not allowed to marry as long as he has been married previously. You can also file a case for support. As with the use of his name, you are precluded from changing the same once you started using it unless your marriage has been annulled, declared void or divorced and recognized in the Philippines. The least you can do is file for legal separation but still you have to continue using the name if you have started using it since it is not one of the grounds stated above.

  6. I have a question though – if you continue to use your maiden name on passport (even after marriage), wouldn’t it be hard to travel with your child who clearly usess the surname of your husband?

    • No. I have always used my maiden last name in my passport, and even if my son used his father’s surname, so long as there is a DSWD Permit to Travel (for minors) card, then it is sufficient. It is DSWD that you will have to convince to grant the card. In getting the DSWD permit, the difficulty is not the different last name, but whether you have the consent of the husband (if living) to take the minor out of the country without him, or not. If husband is deceased, then this is not much of a problem.