Unknown to many, a married woman has no legal obligation to use her husband’s surname. There is no law requiring her to use the same. Neither is there a law prohibiting her from using her maiden name and surname.
But if she decides to use her husband’s surname, a married woman is given three options on how to use it. Thus, she 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.”
For instance, assuming that Maria Clara married Crisostomo Ibarra, she may use:
1. Maria Clara Ibarra, or 2. Maria Ibarra, or 3. Mrs. Crisostomo Ibarra.
It is, however, inappropriate for her to use “Mrs. Maria Clara Ibarra” or “Mrs. Maria Ibarra.”
The reason being that, since the prefix “Mrs.” is an abbreviation of the word Mistress, “Mrs. Maria Clara Ibarra” would then mean Mistress of Maria Clara Ibarra, while “Mrs. Maria Ibarra” would mean Mistress of Maria Ibarra.
But if she really wants to add the prefix “Mrs.” to her name, she should enclose it in parentheses. That prefix, enclosed in parentheses, would then merely be descriptive of her marital status. Thus, she may use “(Mrs.) Maria Clara Ibarra” or “(Mrs.) Maria Ibarra.”
It is also acceptable for her to use “Mrs. Ibarra,” because this falls under Option No. 3.
In legal separation cases, where marital bonds are not severed, a married woman is required by law to continue using the name and surname she used before the legal separation. And this holds true even if she is the innocent spouse.
Thus, in the example given, if, for instance, prior to the legal separation, she used “Maria Ibarra,” she is required to continue using it even after the legal separation. And, as stated, this holds true even if she is the innocent spouse.
[References: Articles 370 and 372 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Persons (2000 Edition) By Dean Ernesto L. Pineda, Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated, Fourteenth Edition (1998), Volume One (Persons and Family Relations) By Edgardo L. Paras, Article 63 of the Family Code of the Philippines, and Laperal v. Republic (6 SCRA 357)]