Monday, May 03, 2010

Miss, Ms, or Mrs? Philippine law on surnames for married women

Summary:

[1] Articles 370 to 372 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines (NCC) are our country’s primary laws on what surname a married may use.

[2] A married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband. When a woman gets married, she changes her status, not her surname (Supreme Court ruling in Yasin vs. Sha'ria District Court, reiterated in “Ma. Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” March 2010).

[3] To prevent undue confusion and inconsistency in documents like passports and records in the SSS or GSIS, a married woman should consistently use either her maiden surname or any of the surnames under Article 370 NCC.

[4] Reasons why a woman should use her husband’s surname:

“The husband who gives his name to his bride in marriage is thus not just keeping his own; he is owning up to what it means to have been given a family and a family name by his own father - he is living out his destiny to be a father by saying yes to it in advance. And the wife does not so much surrender her name as she accepts the gift of his, given and received as a pledge of (among other things) loyal and responsible fatherhood for her children.” (From “What’s Your Name?” published by professors Leon and Amy Kass of The Institute on Religion and Public Life of the University of Chicago)

Ptr. Alen and Sis. RuthArticles 370 to 372 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines are our country’s primary laws on what surname a married may use. These articles state: 
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.”
 
Art. 371. In case of annulment of marriage, and the wife is the guilty party, she shall resume her maiden name and surname. If she is the innocent spouse, she may resume her maiden name and surname. However, she may choose to continue employing her former husband's surname, unless:

(1) The court decrees otherwise, or

(2) She or the former husband is married again to another person.

Art. 372. When legal separation has been granted, the wife shall continue using her name and surname employed before the legal separation.

Art. 373. A widow may use the deceased husband's surname as though he were still living, in accordance with Article 370.

A married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband

The Supreme Court, citing its previous decision in Yasin vs. Sha'ria District Court, reiterated in “Ma. Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010 that the use of the word “may” in Article 370 NCC indicates that the use of the husband’s surname by the wife is permissive rather than obligatory. The Court said:
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. (Emphasis by boldfacing supplied)
Clarifications, practical issues

[1] In the Yasin vs. Sha'ria District Court decision, the Supreme Court ruled that:
(a) When a woman marries a man, she need not apply and/or seek judicial authority to use her husband's name by prefixing the word Mrs. before her husband’s full name or by adding her husband's surname to her maiden first name. The law grants her such right (Art. 370, Civil Code).

(b) Similarly, when the marriage ties or vinculum no longer exists as in the case of death of the husband or divorce as authorized by the Muslim Code, the widow or divorcee need not seek judicial confirmation of the change in her civil status in order to revert to her maiden name as the use of her former husband's name is optional and not obligatory for her.

(c) When petitioner married her husband, she did not change her name but only her civil status. Neither was she required to secure judicial authority to use the surname of her husband after the marriage as no law requires it.
Read the Plain Language summary of the Supreme Court decision in “Ma. Virginia V. Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs”
[2] What if the woman has already used her husbands surname in her records but for some reason now wants to resume using her maiden surname?

This was precisely the issue in the Remo case. As the Supreme Court decision stated, Maria Virginia V. Remo is a married Filipino citizen whose Philippine passport was then expiring on 27 October 2000. Being married to Francisco R. Rallonza, the following entries appear in her passport: “Rallonza” as her surname, “Maria Virginia” as her given name, and “Remo” as her middle name. Prior to the expiry of the validity of her passport, Virginia, whose marriage still subsists, applied for the renewal of her passport with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., with a request to revert to her maiden name and surname in the replacement passport.

The DFA refused to grant Virginia’s petition on the basis of RA 8239 (the law on the issuance of passports). According to the DFA, Section 5(d) of the said law “limits the instances when a married woman may be allowed to revert to the use of her maiden name in her passport. These instances are death of husband, divorce decree, annulment or nullity of marriage.”

After the Office of the President and the Court of Appeals denied her appeal, Virginia brought her case up to the Supreme Court. The Court, in denying her petition, stated:
The petitioner would not have encountered any problems in the replacement passport had she opted to continuously and consistently use her maiden name from the moment she was married and from the time she first applied for a Philippine passport. However, petitioner consciously chose to use her husband’s surname before, in her previous passport application, and now desires to resume her maiden name. If we allow petitioner’s present request, definitely nothing prevents her in the future from requesting to revert to the use of her husband’s surname. Such unjustified changes in one’s name and identity in a passport, which is considered superior to all other official documents, cannot be countenanced. Otherwise, undue confusion and inconsistency in the records of passport holders will arise. Thus, for passport issuance purposes, a married woman, such as petitioner, whose marriage subsists, may not change her family name at will. (Emphasis by boldfacing supplied)
While the Supreme Court’s ruling specifically relates to passports, the same reasoning can possibly be applied to other documents like GSIS and SSS records, for example. To prevent undue confusion and inconsistency, a married woman should consistently use either her maiden surname or any of the surnames provided under Article 370 of the NCC.

[3] Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, during the 14th Congress, filed Senate Bill 1302 which seeks to amend Articles 370 and 372 of the NCC and Article 63 of the Family Code.
Essentially, Sen. Santiago wants a woman to have the right to continue using her maiden name and surname after marriage or legal separation. In view of the Supreme Court ruling in the Yasin and Remo cases, it seems like that Sen. Santiago’s bill is unnecessary. Her bill, however, seeks to explicitly grant the option to use her maiden name and surname (a) during marriage, and (b) when a decree of legal separation has been granted.

Reasons why a married woman should use her husband’s surname


If you ask me however, a man should not marry a woman who refuses to use his surname. I know of several cases where the conflict (and the eventual separation) between the spouses began with the womans refusal to use her husbands surname.

Please surf to my Salt and Light blog for
the reasons why I believe a married woman should use her husband’s surname. Among other reasons, I cited an article entitled “What’s Your Name?” published by professors Leon and Amy Kass of The Institute on Religion and Public Life of the University of Chicago. Leon and Amy (husband and wife!) explain in a very scholarly and closely reasoned manner why a married woman should use her husband’s surname. They said:
The husband who gives his name to his bride in marriage is thus not just keeping his own; he is owning up to what it means to have been given a family and a family name by his own father - he is living out his destiny to be a father by saying yes to it in advance. And the wife does not so much surrender her name as she accepts the gift of his, given and received as a pledge of (among other things) loyal and responsible fatherhood for her children. A woman who refuses this gift is, whether she knows it or not, tacitly refusing the promised devotion or, worse, expressing her suspicions about her groom’s trustworthiness as a husband and prospective father.

Fathers who will not own up to their paternity, who will not “legitimize” their offspring, and who will not name themselves responsible for child-rearing by giving their children their name are, paradoxically, not real fathers at all, and their wives and especially their children suffer. The former stigmatization of bastardy was, in fact, meant to protect women and children from such irresponsible behavior of self-indulgent men (behavior probably naturally rooted in mammalian male psychosexual tendencies), men who would take their sexual pleasures and walk away from their consequences. The removal of the stigma, prompted by a humane concern not to penalize innocent children by calling them “illegitimate,” has, paradoxically but absolutely predictably, contributed mightily to an increase in such fatherless children.

The advantage a woman and her children gain from the commitment of the man to take responsibility and to stay the course - the commitment implied in his embracing the woman and her prospective children with his family name, now newly understood - is by itself sufficient reason why it is in a woman’s interest as a married-woman-and-mother-to-be to readily take the bridegroom’s name.
Please surf to my Salt and Light blog for the other reasons why I believe a married woman should use her husband’s surname.