Is it mandatory for a wife to use her husband’s surname?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org