Married woman has option, not duty, to use husband’s surname


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My girlfriend and I are planning to get married soon. She is now 23 years old but she is still studying. Does she need to change her surname right away after marriage for her school records, and to avoid confusion? I am planning to bring her with me abroad. Thank you very much.

Dear Kristian,
A woman is given options under our New Civil Code on what name she may use in case she marries. Under Article 370 of this law, a married woman may use the following names:

“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.’ ”

According to the late legal luminary Arturo M. Tolentino, “under the present article of our Code, however, the word ‘may’ is used, indicating that the use of the husband’s surname by the wife is permissive rather than obligatory. We have no law which provides that the wife shall change her name to that of the husband upon marriage. This is in consonance with the principle that surnames indicate descent. It seems, therefore, that a married woman may use only her maiden name and surname. She has the option but not the duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by this Article” (Arturo M. Tolentino, Civil Code of the Philippines, Vol. I, 1983 Edition, p.724,). This statement was echoed in the case of Remo vs. Secretary of Foreign Affairs (GR No. 169202, March 5, 2010; ponente,

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio), where the Supreme Court held that “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.” (Emphasis supplied)

From the foregoing discussion, a validly married woman has, thus, four (4) alternatives in the adoption of surname after marriage. So, for example, if Juana Santos marries Pedro dela Cruz, the law gives her the option to use either one of the following names: 1) Juana Santos dela Cruz; 2) Juana dela Cruz; 3) Mrs. Pedro dela Cruz; or, 4) She may retain her maiden name, Juana Santos.

Hence, if after your marriage, your girlfriend opts to use your surname so as to reflect the same on her records in school, she may validly do so. The New Civil Code grants her such right.

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 and 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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