Divorced woman from prior marriage to foreigner wants change of surname

Dear Atty. Duran-Schulze,

Can you help me and my wife with this problem? I would like to know how to change the surname of my wife from her prior marriage and officially revert her name to mine, even in official documents like her passport.

We managed to get married in the Philippines. However, she still carries the name of her former husband, a Japanese. They got divorced in Japan but divorce is still not recognized in the Philippines. 

Can this be done? Hoping you can help.

Answer:

Hi Max,

A Filipino citizen who gets married to a foreigner then seeks a divorce afterward can remarry. However, the divorce must be validly obtained abroad. 

Prior to validly remarrying, the divorced Filipino spouse must file a petition for judal recognition of foreign divorce decree (Republic of the Philippines v. Florie Grace M. Cote) in application of Article 26 Paragraph 2 of the Family Code.

Going back to your case, your wife should make two requests in the appropriate Court: A Recognition of Foreign Divorce decree and Cancellation of Entry of Marriage. But even if the Court grants these, your wife still cannot automatically use your last name. That’s because divorce was still not recognized in the Philippines when you and your wife got married. That said, your wife did not have the capacity to remarry.

Note, though, that you must have been able to prove the occurrence of the divorce on foreign soil, backed by the corresponding foreign laws that made the divorce possible. The best proof of this is a copy of the divorce decree that has been presented and submitted as evidence. This is the most plausible reason why you got the approval to get married. 

We hope that you and your wife resolve this issue concerning her surname soon. For further assistance, Duran & Duran-Schulze Law is ready to assist you. Call us at (+632) 478 5826 or send an email to info@duranschulze.com. You can also send your message to us here.

Please be informed that the legal opinion above is based solely on facts provided to us and our appreciation of the same.