Surname of a married woman
Unknown to many, a married woman has no legal obligation to use the surname of her husband.
This means she can continue using her maiden name and surname even after the wedding.
Among the reasons for this is there is no law requiring a married woman to use the surname of her husband.
Neither is there a law prohibiting her from using her maiden name and surname.
But if she wants to use the surname of her husband, a married woman has by law three options on how to use it.
She may use either:
(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.”
To illustrate, let us say a woman named Maria Clara marries a man named Crisostomo Ibarra.
If Maria Clara wants to use the surname of her husband, she has three options on how to use it.
She may use either:
(1) Maria Clara Ibarra, or
(2) Maria Ibarra, or
(3) Mrs. Crisostomo Ibarra.
When the use of “Mrs.” is inappropriate
It is, however, inappropriate for her to use “Mrs. Maria Clara Ibarra” or “Mrs. Maria Ibarra.”
This is because given that 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.
When “Mrs.” should be enclosed in parentheses
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.
Consequently, she may use “(Mrs.) Maria Clara Ibarra” or “(Mrs.) Maria Ibarra.”
It is, however, acceptable for her to use “Mrs. Ibarra,” because this falls under Option No. 3.
Option not a duty
In a decided case, the Supreme Court made it clear that the use of the surname of the husband is a mere option and not a duty on the part of a married woman.
She is consequently allowed to use not only the surname of her husband in any of the ways given by law, but also her maiden name and surname upon marriage.
She is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name and surname once she is married.
This is because when a woman marries, she does not change her name, but only her civil status.
This interpretation is in consonance with the principle that surnames indicate descent.
Right to drop the surname of the husband
For similar reasons, a married woman who opted to use the surname of her husband at first can later drop it and use her maiden name and surname again.
Besides, save for a few instances, there is no law prohibiting a married woman from dropping the surname of her husband and resuming the use of her maiden name and surname.
But it is different when it comes to Philippine passports.
By law, once a married woman starts using the surname of her husband in her passport, she can no longer drop it and resume the use of her maiden name and surname in it, which is considered superior to all other official documents.
This is of course true only while her marriage still exists.
It is also different in case of legal separation, where marital bonds are not severed.
By law, a married woman is required to continue using the name and surname she used before her legal separation with her husband. And this holds true even if she is the innocent spouse.
For instance, if prior to her legal separation with Crisostomo Ibarra, Maria Clara used the name and surname Maria Ibarra, she is required to continue using it even after her legal separation. And 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), Maria Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs (G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010), Section 5(d) of RA 8239, Re: Request to Revert to Use of Maiden Name/Petition for Review of Vallar, Rommela B., (Civil Service Resolution No. 101203, June 15, 2010), Hatima C. Yasin vs. The Honorable Judge SHARIA’A District Court (G.R. No. 949986, February 23, 1995, Article 376 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Ng Yao Siong v. Republic (16 SCRA 483 , Article 408 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Philippine Commission on Women Memorandum Circular No. 2016-07 (To: All Government Departments including Attached Agencies, Bureaus and Offices; State Universities and Colleges (SUCs); Government Owned and/or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs); Other Government Instrumentalities, Private Institutions and All Other Concerned/Subject: Allowing Married Women to Retain and Use their Maiden Name in lieu of their Husband’s Surname in accordance with Existing Laws and Pertinent Jurisprudence/Date: 12 October 2016), Philippine Passport Act of 1996 (RA 8239), In the matter of the change of name of Jesus Ng Yao Siong. Jesus Ng Yao Siong vs. Republic of the Philippines (G.R. No. L-20306, March 31, 1996), Article 408 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Article 376 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Hatima C. Yasin, represented by her Attorney-in-Fact, Hadji Hasan S. Centi vs. The Honorable Judge Shari’a District Court Third Shari’a Judicial District, Zamboanga City (G.R. No. 94986, February 23, 1995), Rule 103 of the Rules of Court, Article 376 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, and Article 371 (2) of the Civil Code of the Philippines, Article 372 of the Civil Code of the Philippines]