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In the Matter of Adoption of Stephanie Nathy Astorga Garcia

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Court/Judicial body:  Supreme Court of the Philippines
Date: 31 March 2005 CRC
Provisions:  General reference (no specific Article cited)
Domestic provisions: Article 365 of the Civil Code: An adopted child shall bear the surname of the adopter. Article 189 of the Family Code: The adopted shall be deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopters and shall have the right to use the surname of the adopters.

Case summary

Background: The petitioner’s application to adopt his illegitimate child was granted by the trial court who also ordered that the child’s name be changed to reflect the petitioner’s surname. Before the adoption, the child had been using her natural mother’s middle name and surname. The petitioner wanted to change the child’s name such that the child would keep her natural mother’s surname as her middle name and the petitioner’s surname as her surname. The trial court denied the petitioner’s request as there was no law that allowed an adopted child to use the surname of the child’s biological mother as the child’s middle name. The petitioner appealed and argued that the trial court had erred in its decision. While there is no law providing that an adopted child can use the natural mother’s surname as a middle name, there is no law prohibiting it either. It is also customary for every Filipino to have the surname of the mother as a middle name and the use in this instance is customary, not opposed by any interested party or prohibited by any laws. The petitioner argued that adoption is for the benefit and best interest of the adopted child, hence the child’s right to bear a proper name should not be violated. In addition, permitting the child to use her mother’s surname as her middle name avoids the stigma of her illegitimacy.

Issue and resolution: Adoption. The Court had to decide whether an illegitimate child, upon adoption by her natural father, may use the surname of her natural mother as her middle name. The Court held that it was permissible, reversed the trial court’s decision and granted the petitioner’s appeal.

Court reasoning: The Court held that there is no law expressly prohibiting the child to use the surname of her natural mother as her middle name and what is not prohibited by law, is allowed. It is customary for every Filipino to have a middle name, which is ordinarily the surname of the mother. While not set out in law this custom has been recogniсed during the lawmaking process. In fact, the Family Law Committees had agreed that the initial or surname of the mother should immediately precede the surname of the father. The Court also said that it is necessary to preserve and maintain the child’s relationship with her natural mother because under the law, she remains an intestate heir of the mother. The underlying intent of adoption law is in favour of the child and the effects of adoption is that the adopted is deemed to be a legitimate child of the adopter for all intents and purposes under the law. Being a legitimate child by virtue of her adoption by the petitioner, it follows that the child is end to all the rights provided by law to a legitimate child without discrimination of any kind, including the right to bear the surname of her father and her mother.  Adoption law should be interpreted and construed liberally to carry out the beneficial purposes of adoption with the interests and welfare of the adopted child being the primary and paramount consideration.

Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights Adoption is defined as the process of making a child, whether related or not to the adopter, possess in general, the rights accorded to a legitimate child. It is a juridical act, a proceeding in rem which creates between two persons a relationship similar to that which results from legitimate paternity and filiation. The modern trend is to consider adoption not merely as an act to establish a relationship of paternity and filiation, but also as an act which endows the child with a legitimate status. This was, indeed, confirmed in 1989, when the Philippines, as a State Party to the Convention of the Rights of the Child initiated by the United Nations, accepted the principle that adoption is impressed with social and moral responsibility, and that its underlying intent is geared to favor the adopted child.  Republic Act No. 8552, otherwise known as the “Domestic Adoption Act of 1998,” secures these rights and privileges for the adopted.

CRIN comments:  CRIN believes this decision is consistent with the CRC. In all matters pertaining to adoption, the best interests of the child should be a paramount consideration.

Citation:  [2005] PHSC 336 / G.R. No. 148311

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