In a couple of days, my best friend will be getting married. Judging from her recent Facebook posts, she is *thrilled* at the thought of transitioning from a Miss to her fiance’s Mrs. Well, I guess all other girls who’d soon be saying their “I DO’s” have, at one point, practiced signing their future married names.
Under Article 370 of our Civil Code, a woman is given three options when it comes to her name after marriage – (1) Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname (e.g. Lucy Torres Gomez); (2) Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname (e.g. Lucy Gomez); or (3) Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as “Mrs.” (e.g. Mrs. Richard Gomez).
Once the woman picks her choice, the next duty is to have the change in name reflected in all her official records. While most men take pride at giving their surnames to their wives, others lovingly beam at how their wives endured all the hassle just to announce to the world that she’s been hitched. Their happily ever after has just began!
Or maybe not. Unfortunately, not all marriages end happily in real life. There are those which get annulled or divorced. Others simply come to a point of falling apart. When these happens, it becomes terribly awkward for the woman to continue using her estranged husband’s surname and usually, two questions crop up:
First, can a married woman who has been separated in fact from her husband, revert to using her maiden name in her official employment records in the government?; and
Second, can she omit her husband’s surname in her Philippine passport?
The first question was answered by the Civil Service Commission in Vallar, Rommela B. (CSC Resolution 10123, June 15, 2010). In that case, Vallar wanted to change her name in the records of the CSC from her married name to her maiden name after being separated (in fact) for almost six years with her husband. The Commission allowed it and ruled that a married woman may unilaterally revert to using her maiden name. The only requirement is for the woman to inform her employer- agency that she is exercising her option to revert. No further authority is needed from the woman’s employer agency or the Commission because the latter are bound to recognize her option.
The rule is different when it comes to renewing Philippine passports where such unilateral reversion is prohibited. 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 clarified that a married woman who has been issued a Philippine passport under her husband’s surname cannot change her family name at will for as long as her marriage still subsists. This is to prevent confusion and inconsistency in the records of passport holders. (To read the full text of the decision, click here.) The Department of Foreign Affairs will only allow the reversion upon showing that there is a final court decree severing the marriage.