How can a divorced Filipina revert her Philippine passport to her maiden name?

by | Mar 22, 2018 | Family Law, Recognition of Foreign Divorce

An airplane to represent international marriages.

Changing your passport to your maiden name after a divorce abroad requires a court case.

This question comes up in some form from time to time because a divorce obtained abroad can be recognized in the Philippines.

For example, a Filipina marries a foreign citizen. She afterward gets a new Philippine passport with her husband’s surname as her new last name.

But the foreign husband later divorces her.

She now wants to go back to using her maiden name on her passport.

Can the Filipina simply apply for a new Philippine passport in which her maiden name is her surname?

No.

Simply applying for a new passport from the Department of Foreign Affairs or a Philippine embassy is not enough. A court case is necessary before a divorced Filipina can change the name on her passport from her married to her maiden name.

What the Law Says

This is because of Republic Act No. 8239. This law set certain conditions for the issuance of a passport:

d) In case of a woman who is married, separated, divorced or widowed or whose marriage has been annulled or declared by court as void, a copy of the certificate of marriage, court decree of separation, divorce or annulment or certificate of death of the deceased spouse duly issued and authenticated by the Office of the Civil Registrar General: Provided, That in case of a divorce decree, annulment or declaration of marriage as void, the woman applicant may revert to the use of her maiden name: Provided, further, That such divorce is recognized under existing laws of the Philippines;

It’s the last line that causes difficulty.

Recognition of foreign divorce is a judicial process in the Philippines. This means that a Filipina who was divorced abroad cannot revert to her maiden name on her passport without first going through this court process in the Philippines.

A Philippine airlines plane to denote that the divorce must be registered in the Philippines.

A divorce abroad allows you to use your maiden name when the divorce is recognized in the Philippines

Recognition must be done through a Philippine court, not just through an embassy or the Department of Foreign Affairs.

[See this article from one Philippine embassy which likewise outlines the necessary steps for judicial recognition.]

What Jurisprudence Says

This specific rule for passports is in contrast to the general rule that “a married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband.”[1]

In the case of Remo vs. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court upheld that general rule under Article 370 of the Civil Code, saying that a woman “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.”[2]

A book symbolizing the Philippine law.

Philippine law states that once your married name is used in your passport, reverting to your maiden name is not a matter of choice.

However, in that same 2010 case, the Supreme Court also upheld R.A. 8239 as a special situation provided by law, and thus affirmed that a woman cannot change the surname on her passport at will:

The Court notes that 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 husbands 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 husbands 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.

THE ACQUISITION OF A PHILIPPINE PASSPORT IS A PRIVILEGE. THE LAW RECOGNIZES THE PASSPORT APPLICANTS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO TRAVEL. HOWEVER, THE STATE IS ALSO MANDATED TO PROTECT AND MAINTAIN THE INTEGRITY AND CREDIBILITY OF THE PASSPORT AND TRAVEL DOCUMENTS PROCEEDING FROM IT AS A PHILIPPINE PASSPORT REMAINS AT ALL TIMES THE PROPERTY OF THE GOVERNMENT. THE HOLDER IS MERELY A POSSESSOR OF THE PASSPORT AS LONG AS IT IS VALID AND THE SAME MAY NOT BE SURRENDERED TO ANY PERSON OR ENTITY OTHER THAN THE GOVERNMENT OR ITS REPRESENTATIVE.

As the OSG correctly pointed out:

[T]he issuance of passports is impressed with public interest. A passport is an official document of identity and nationality issued to a person intending to travel or sojourn in foreign countries. It is issued by the Philippine government to its citizens requesting other governments to allow its holder to pass safely and freely, and in case of need, to give him/her aid and protection.

Viewed in the light of the foregoing, it is within respondent’s competence to regulate any amendments intended to be made therein, including the denial of unreasonable and whimsical requests for amendments such as in the instant case.[3]

What the Embassies Say

The Philippine Commission on Women has raised the criticism that this law limits a woman’s right to use her own surname.

But it is still the current law and, until R.A. 8239 is amended or the Supreme Court reconsiders the interpretation, it guides the Department of Foreign Affairs’ / Philippine embassies’ requirements for allowing a change of surname in a woman’s passport.

Philippine passports spread out on a table. Even the embassies echo this finding.

Philippine embassies state that a court order is required to use your maiden name.

For this reason, they typically require that the divorcee’s previous Report of Marriage or Certificate of Marriage be presented with an official annotation of the recognition of the divorce before they will allow a change in surname.

For example, the Philippine embassy in Tokyo requires the following documents:

If changing name to revert to maiden name after annulment/judicial recognition of divorce:

i. PSA-issued Marriage Contract with Annotation to show annulment/divorce/court-ordered instruction, OR

ii. If annotated Marriage Contract from PSA is not yet available,

applicant must submit a DFA-authenticated Certified True Copy of the Court Order dissolving the marriage, AND

a DFA-authenticated Certificate of Finality from the court.

Complying with these requires a court case in the Philippines.

The Philippine flag to denote the embassies that the article quotes.

Tokyo and Singapore state the same requirement

For this reason, another Philippine embassy notes that:

A foreign divorce must be first recognized by a Philippine Court, under Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines. This is obtained only by hiring a lawyer in the Philippines to lodge a Petition for judicial acknowledgment of foreign divorce with a Philippine Court. If the Petition is successful, a Court Order will be issued for the purpose of amending the applicant’s PSA marriage certificate.

 

Atty. Francesco C. Britanico

References

[1] Remo vs. The Honorable Secretary of Foreign Affairs, G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

24 Comments

  1. Lily sison

    Ako po ay pilipina, kinasal noong year 2000 sa japanese citizen dito sa Manila Philippines , after married he left Philippines and never heard from him, year 2005 he obtained divorce by agreement in Japan to remarry,
    I was abundant and can’t do anything since we didn’t been together after married, until now after many years I’m still married to him..
    I met a good soul ,3 yrs ago and now we wish to have a real family and legal..
    Is it ok that I file a petition for foreign divorce recognizing ??
    Hope you can advice me and help me out in my situation… More power! & God bless 🙏

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi Lily. Will send you an email.

      Reply
  2. SJ

    Hello po, ako naman po ay nandito sa England. Dito po ako kinasal sa isang british citizen. D po nagtagal ay nambabae po sya kaya ako na po ang nag divorce sa kanya. At nagpakasal na sila ng babae nya. Tanong ko pwede ko po ba na palitan yung apelyido ko sa passport ko? Thank u po

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      There are restrictions on changing your surname on a Philippine passport.

      If you wish to change from your married to your maiden surname because of a foreign divorce, then that divorce needs to first be judicially recognized in the Philippines.

      Note that Philippine law requires that the divorce must have been obtained by the foreign spouse. If you obtained it yourself, then I’m afraid Philippine law cannot recognize it.

      Edit: This rule has now been amended by the very latest Supreme Court decision on the subject.

      https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/24/1809011/sc-philippine-courts-now-recognize-divorce-obtained-filipino-foreign-spouse

      A divorce from a foreigner obtained by a Filipino can now also be judicially recognized.

      Reply
  3. SJ

    Salamat po sa sagot nyo. Alam nyo po May pagka bias ang batas na yan na Pag ang foreign spouse ang nag divorce ay recognised ng Philippine law, pero Pag ang Filipino/ Filipina spouse ang nag divorce ay Hindi recognized ng Philippine law. Bakit anu po ba ang pagkakaiba Kung sino ang nag divorce? At the end of the day divorced naman din. Anu po yun mas binibigyan ba ng favor ng Philippine law ang mga foreigners na nag aasawa ng mga Pilipino? Gaya nga po ng husband ko malaya syang nakapagpakasal ulit. Sila lang ba ang May karapatan na maging masaya? Sana naisip yan ng gumawa ng law na yan. Kung ang sacredness ng marriage ang pinaglalaban nila, sa tingin ko mali yun kasi nasan ang sacredness ng marriage Kung divorce na nga at May iba ng asawa yung x husband ko. Sana may mag amend ng batas na yan kasi Wala yan sa katwiran, kawawa ang mga pinoy na naloko ng mga foreigner. Anyway thank u po

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      That’s well said, SJ.

      Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      The Supreme Court has just now issued a ruling which allows recognition to a foreign divorce obtained by a Filipino from a foreign spouse.

      This may have application to your situation. This may mean that the recognition of divorce process can now be availed of by you.

      Reply
      • SJ

        Fantastic news po yan, Maraming salamat po sa Pag inform sa akin. Ngayun po ay maayos ko na ang apelyido ko.

  4. Lorna Laureta

    Good day sir, tanong ko lang po kung need ko po ba palitan passport surname ko kase annulled na po ako, at mag aaplay ng K1 visa bf ko… ang surname ko po kase sa pasaporte ko ay sa ex-husband ko. Salamat po

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      If you already have your court annulment papers, you should have it registered at the civil register (NSO /PSA). It won’t be difficult to change your passport after that.

      Reply
  5. Carli

    Good day. Ask ko lang po… possible po ba na ma-revert back sa passport ang married name ko sa maiden name kung ang marriage has never existed? it was a simulated marriage but never registered in NSO/PSA.What would be the requirements for the reversion?

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      You would have had to submit a marriage certificate at the DFA in order to have gotten a passport in your “married” name. Are you certain it isn’t registered?

      This may be more than you’re comfortable discussing on an open page. Send me an email at contact@lawyerphilippines.org and I’ll be happy to discuss the issues involved.

      Reply
  6. Joyce Olivares-Poblete

    Good day! Tanong lang po. Me and my ex husband was recently divorce here in us and both green card holder. We were married in the philippines but I file for divorce here. I have already apply for a name change here to obtain my maiden name and also inform the us immigration to change my surname in my green card. I am also planning to change my surname in my passport but I have read that the divorce will only be recognize in the philippines if one of the party is a forgein national during the time that the divorce was file. Will there be any chance I can still change my last name in my passport? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi. I’m afraid that I don’t see a way to change your surname on your Philippine passport back to your maiden name under the circumstances. You would do well to ask the DFA yourself, but I’d say no because the divorce you described cannot be recognized under present Philippine law.

      Reply
      • Joyce

        Thanks for the reply sir! Follow up question po. Eventually I will apply for a us citizenship I guess that’s the only time I can change my last name in my passport by means of having a different passport that is. But what if I or both of us were us citizen already and we opt for an annulment to clear our civil status in the philippines for future marriage in the philippines to our future respective partner will that still make sense if we’re us citizen already? Or if I file for an annulment in the near future would that help me changing my name and status in the philippines? What ground would you think should I file for since the grounds for annulment in our law is not that broad? Thanks again atty!

      • Lawyers in the Philippines

        I’d need to know considerably more about your situation before hazarding a comment on that. I will send you an email.

  7. Joyce

    Thanks atty! It’s actually a mutaul thing, we went on seperate ways on mutual grounds. I will look forward to your suggestions sir. I was just worried that I wouldn’t be able to travel outside the US due to different names on my green card and passport and different civil status since I’ve planning to take a vacation soon. I appreciate your response atty. thanks again!

    Reply
  8. Joy

    I am a dual citizen, US and Filipina. I filed the divorce in the US. There’s a court order for name change back to maiden name through California court. Can I change my name in the Philippine passport back to my maiden name?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      If your passport currently states your married last name then you will need to go through the recognition of divorce process in court before you can be issued a new Philippine passport with your maiden name.

      Please note that recognition of foreign divorce is only available if at least one of the spouses was a non-Filipino at the time of the divorce.

      Reply
  9. Anne

    I’m a Filipino citizen, my husband died this year, ano po effect sa civil status ko and how can I change my name in my Philippine passport back to my maiden name po?

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      You can submit your certificate of death to the DFA together with passport application.

      Reply
  10. grace

    i am filipina who married of japanese citizen 15 years ago but later on year 2001 we decided to file a divorce in japan and now im in philipines for good. but i have a problem in my passport i cant get back to my maiden name due lack of documents to do so, dfa asking me about recognition of divorce etc. do you mind if i ask some help how to get back my maiden name from my husbands surename. what documents and legal advise that you can give me? thank you in advance for your reply and legal advice

    Reply
  11. Cecile

    Dear Sir,
    I would like to inquire – What are the requirements for myself and my ex husband to transfer each properties under each names? During the marriage, we purchased two apartments in Manila. Part of the settlement agreement is that one apartment goes to him and one for me. He is a foreigner. His plan is to sell his share of apartment right after the Court approves the Settlement Agreement that we both signed.

    What is the best and easiest way for us to go to without going back and forth in Manila during the whole transfer process? We both live in his home country.

    Thank you so much. Your advise is very much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent you an email.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This