GR No. 18008, 30 October 1962
In 1958, petitioner Elisea L. Santamaria was decreed legally separated from her husband Enrique R. Santamaria. In 1960, she filed a petition to be allowed to change her name and/or be permitted to resume using her maiden name EliseaLaperal. The City Attorney of Baguio opposed the petition on the ground that the same violates the provisions of Article 370 (should be 372) of the Civil Code, and that it is not sanctioned by the Rules of Court.
The court denied the petition. Upon petitioner’s motion, however, the court, treating the petition as one for change of name, reconsidered its decision and granted the petition on the ground that to allow petitioner, who is a businesswoman decreed legally separated from her husband, to continue using her married name would give rise to confusion in her finances and the eventual liquidation of the conjugal assets. Hence, this appeal by the State.
Should petitioner be allowed to change her name or be permitted to resume using her maiden name?
No. Article 372 of the Civil Code reads:
ART. 372. When legal separation has been granted, the wife shall continue using her name and surname employed before the legal separation.
Legal separation alone is not a ground for wife’s change of name. A woman’s married status is not affected by a decree of legal separation, there being no severance of the vinculum and under Article 372 of the New Civil Code, and she must continue using the name and surname employed by her before the separation.
It is doubtful whether Rule 103 of the Rules of Court, which refers to change of name in general, may prevail over the specific provisions of Article 372 of the New Civil Code with regard to married women legally separated from their husbands. Even, however, applying Rule 103, the fact of legal separation alone is not sufficient ground to justify a change of name, because to hold otherwise, would be to provide an easy circumvention of the mandatory provisions of said Article 372.
The language of the statute is mandatory that the wife, even after the legal separation has been decreed, shall continue using her name and surname employed before the legal separation. This is so because her married status is unaffected by the separation, there being no severance of the vinculum. It seems to be the policy of the law that the wife should continue to use the name indicative of her unchanged status for the benefit of all concerned.
Even applying Rule 103, the fact of legal separation alone — which is the only basis for the petition — is, not a sufficient ground to justify a change of the name of petitioner, for to hold otherwise would be to provide an easy circumvention of the mandatory provisions of Article 372.
The finding that petitioner’s continued use of her husband surname may cause undue confusion in her finances was without basis. It must be considered that the issuance of the decree of legal separation in 1958, necessitate that the conjugal partnership between her and Enrique had automatically been dissolved and liquidated. Hence, there could be no more occasions for an eventual liquidation of the conjugal assets.
* Case digest by Neah Hope L. Bato, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018