Of all the questions and clarifications we regularly receive through this blog, changing the last name of an illegitimate child tops our list. These questions often come from single moms who either:
- Gave their maiden last name to their illegitimate child and now wants the child to use the last name of the biological father;
- Gave their maiden last name to their illegitimate child and now wants the child to use the last name of the adoptive father;
- Gave the biological father’s last name to the illegitimate child and now wants the father’s last name dropped from the child’s name and replace it with her last name.
Today’s blog shall focus on these three circumstances and how the processes of achieving the desired results differ from each other. If you are about to become a single mom, this article may help you in deciding whose last name your child should carry.
What does the Family Code say about illegitimate children?
According to Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the Family Code of the Philippines, illegitimate children are children conceived and born outside a valid marriage (Art. 164). Under the same E.O., illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother. (Art. 176).
In 2004 however, Article 176 was amended by virtue of R.A. 9255. The new law allows illegitimate children to use the surname of their biological father, provided that the father acknowledges his paternity over the child.
How does this new law affect the three cases of changing the last name of illegitimate children?
Before R.A. 9255 took effect, an illegitimate child shall carry its mother’s last name (while the middle name field is left blank) until the biological parents marry and the child is subsequently legitimated. With the amendment of Article 176 (of R.A. 209), single mothers (and fathers!) now have the option to have the child carry the biological father’s last name in their birth certificates.
a. If an illegitimate child, carrying his mother’s maiden last name, wants to start using his father’s last name, he needs to execute a document, private or public, where he is recognized by his father as his child. Such documents may be:
- The affidavit found at the back of the Certificate of Live Birth (COLB); or
- A separate PUBLIC document executed by the father, expressly recognizing the child as his. The document should be handwritten and signed by the father; or
- A separate PRIVATE handwritten instrument such as the Affidavit to Use the Surname of the Father (AUSF). Note that the AUSF is used when the birth has been registered under the mother’s surname, with or without the father’s recognition.
b. If an illegitimate child, carrying his mother’s maiden last name, wants to use the last name of his adoptive father.
- This shall follow the process of legal adoption.
c. If the single mother wants to drop the last name of the illegitimate child’s biological father from the child’s birth certificate.
- This is a relatively new scenario that may have surfaced after R.A. 9255 took effect. When unmarried parents decide to let the child use the father’s last name and then separate later on, the single mother may soon decide that her child’s birth certificate is better off without her ex-partner’s name on it.
- This case needs to undergo court hearing and the results are entirely dependent on how the proceedings will go. This may also entail more costs, time, and effort before a favorable result is achieved.
While the said amendment gives parents the liberty to let their illegitimate child carry the biological father’s name (or any other man’s name for that matter, as long as he is willing to let his last name be used by the child), it also opens opportunities for problems on the child’s birth certificate when the mother and the father do not end up marrying each other. Keep in mind that after a child’s birth certificate has been duly registered at the LCR and a copy has been released to the PSA, any changes, especially those affecting the child’s last name, may prove to be more complicated than we would care to admit.
What is a single parent’s best recourse in order to avoid problems on the child’s last name?
If we are to base our answer on the above scenarios, then the best option would be for a single mother to simply let her child use her maiden last name, sans the middle name. This leaves enough room for changes later on, minus the hassle of a court order.
a. If the child is using his mother’s maiden name, he can easily adopt his biological father’s last name in case his parents marry later on;
b. If the child’s mother marries a different man, the stepfather may simply adopt the child and give the child the legal right to carry his name. Without adoption, the child is free to carry his mother’s maiden last name.
This is merely a personal opinion based solely on the numerous cases of dropping the last name of an illegitimate child due to unforeseen circumstances between his unmarried parents. You are free to choose the option you deem best and applicable to your situation. As an additional option, consider it best to consult a lawyer who may be able to provide you with professional advise on your situation.