Dear Smart Parenting, Thank you for your very informative article on changing a minor’s surname. But what if the mother falsified the birth certificate and let the child use the father's surname? Can she still make things right by having the surname changed so that her child carries her last name instead?
Hi there, Pseudo-name! Thank you for reading, and I’m glad that you are participating by asking a clarificatory question. In the situation that you gave, the last name of the child can still be changed; however, the act that the mother committed would make her liable for a criminal case (falsification of a public document). For a better discussion of this issue, I will need to know why she chose to falsify the birth certificate in the first place. Did she do it because she assumed that the father would acknowledge the child? Or was it simply a mistake that she chose not to correct when she realized her error? In case the falsification is discovered, she will need to explain why she did it, and whether or not it was done intentionally.
Whatever her real intentions were, she can still file a petition in court in order to change her child’s last name. As I mentioned in a previous article, the Courts are very strict when it comes to change of surnames, and the petition is granted only on certain grounds, such as:
a. when the name is ridiculous, dishonorable or extremely difficult to write or pronounce; b. when the change results as a legal consequence such as legitimation; c. when the change will avoid confusion; d. when one has continuously used and been known since childhood by a Filipino name, and was unaware of alien parentage; e. a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name to erase signs of former alienage, all in good faith and without prejudicing anybody; and f. when the surname causes embarrassment and there is no showing that the desired change of name was for a fraudulent purpose or that the change of name would prejudice public interest.
In the situation that you mentioned, the mother can say that the father never acknowledged paternity over the child, has abandoned them, and has never given support for the child, and that is why she is seeking the change of the child’s surname to her own last name. Besides, because the child is illegitimate and has no permission to use the father’s last name, the child should really be carrying the mother’s surname anyway. She just has to prove to the judge that the change in the child’s last name is for the child’s own best interest and benefit.
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Atty. Nikki Jimeno
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