Family Law: Marriages Exempt from the License Requirement

A Marriage License is issued by the Local Civil Registrar of the city or municipality where either of the contracting parties to the marriage habitually resides after completion of the 10-day period of publication of the Notice of the impending marriage.  A Marriage License is DIFFERENT from a Marriage Certificate/Marriage Contract. The latter is issued by the Solemnizing Officer AFTER the marriage, in which the contracting parties to the marriage declare, among others, that they take each other as husband and wife. It is the primary or best evidence to prove the existence (NOT validity) of the marriage when the question as to whether or not a marriage has been contracted arises in litigation. The former, on the other hand, is a formal requisite of marriage issued BEFORE the marriage, the total absence of which at the time of the celebration of the marriage renders the marriage void ab initio EXCEPT in the case of marriages exempt from the license requirement as provided under Articles 27 to 34 of the Family Code of the Philippines, to wit:

  1. Marriages among Muslims or among members of the ethnic cultural communities solemnized in accordance with their customs, rites, or practices;

  2. Marriages in articulo mortis (or where either or both of the contracting parties are at the point of death), even if the ailing party subsequently survives;

  3. Marriages in remote places where residence of either party is so located that there is no means of transportation to enable such party to appear personally before the Local Civil Registrar; and

  4. Marriages between a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least 5 years and without any legal impediment to marry each other at the time of the celebration of the marriage.

A Marriage License is valid in any part of the Philippines, NOT abroad, for a period of 120 days from the date of issue. The date of issue refers to the date of signing of the Local Civil Registrar of the Marriage License. The contracting parties to the marriage must make use of the same within the 120-day period; otherwise, it shall be deemed AUTOMATICALLY cancelled. A marriage contracted with an expired Marriage License is equivalent to a marriage solemnized without a Marriage License; hence, such marriage is void ab initio.

Note that the first exemption applies ONLY to Muslims and members of the ethnic cultural communities of the Cordillera Autonomous Region because they have a separate law – Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (P.D. No. 1083) and the Organic Act of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (R.A. No. 6766), respectively. Other ethnic groups are still governed by the Family Code of the Philippines (Sta Maria, 2004).

In the cases of the second and third exemptions, the Solemnizing Officer shall state in an Affidavit executed before the Local Civil Registrar or any other person legally authorized to administer oaths that the marriage was performed in articulo mortis or that the residence of either party, specifying the barrio or barangay, is so located that there is no means of transportation to enable such party to appear personally before the Local Civil Registrar and that the said Solemnizing Officer took the necessary steps to ascertain the ages and relationship of the contracting parties to the marriage, and the absence of a legal impediment to the marriage. The original of the above-mentioned Affidavit together with a legible copy of the Marriage Contract shall be sent by the Solemnizing Officer to the Local Civil Registrar of the municipality where it was performed within the period of 30 days after the performance of the marriage (Articles 29-30, Family Code of the Philippines).

In the case of the last exemption, the contracting parties to the marriage shall execute an Affidavit of Cohabitation, stating therein the facts that (a) they have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years, and (b) no legal impediment to marry each other exists at the time of the celebration of the marriage. Also, the Solemnizing Officer shall execute a Sworn Statement stating under oath that he ascertained the qualifications of the contracting parties to the marriage and found no legal impediment to the marriage (Article 34, supra). In the computation of the 5-year period of cohabitation, the 5-year period should be computed on the basis of cohabitation as husband and wife where the only missing factor is the Marriage Contract to validate the union. This 5-year period should be the years immediately before the day of the marriage and it should be a period of cohabitation characterized by exclusivity – meaning no legal impediment was present at any time within the 5 years, and continuity – that is unbroken (Republic vs. Dayot [2008]; Niñal vs. Bayadog [2000]).

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2 thoughts on “Family Law: Marriages Exempt from the License Requirement

  1. Help needed in this complication. Mr. A and Ms. B got married in 1984 . Mr. A was then 26 years old and Ms. B was 24. The marriage was solemnized by a judge in a court somewhere in the visayas. Said marriage was not announced to the families of both as they even dubbed it as a “secret marriage”. Both of them were from Mindanao. Two years after , in 1986 they made their vows public in a church wedding in Mindanao. But in 2000 , Ms A filed a petition for annulment of her marriage to Mr. A . .. Ms. B succeeded and the annulment was granted in 2002 with out pronouncement as to cost, property disposition and custody of children. Both have subsequently contracted new marriages. In 2012, Ms. C the new wife of Mr. B informed Ms A that the local civil registrar in visayas refuses to acknowledge the Declaration of Nullity issued by the court in Mindanao on the ground that the marriage indicated in the declaration although contracted by the same couple is not the one appearing in their registry. Apparently, what Ms A had presented as marriage certificate in her petition was the one they acquired out of their marriage celebration in the church as issued by the solemnizing priest in Mindanao. In that marriage certificate however there was an annotation made by the issuing church on the right margin of the one-page document declaring that Mr. B and Ms A had already been married in a civil wedding in Visayas in 1984. This fact however was never mentioned in the court’s judgment. Adding more problem is the cumbersome fact that the marriage in the church in Mindanao by reasons so unknown was not registered in the civil registrar in Mindanao. The questions are: can the declaration be assailed for observable infirmity such as why it did not require the civil Registrar and NSO copies of the marriage certificate, are the subsequent marriages valid especially if the parties claim that in their honest belief the previous marriage bond had already been severed judicially, what are the remedies?

    • Good day! I do not believe that it would be wise to assail the judgment dissolving your previous marriage as both of you have subsequently contracted marriage. While there may be post-judgment remedies that you can avail of, still I believe your best remedy is to file for a “Motion for Clarificatory Judgment” in the same court which rendered the declaration of nullity of marriage. The subsequent marriages, however, are void ab initio pursuant to Article 53 of the Family Court of the Philippines for the reason that the judgment of absolute nullity of the previous marriage was not recorded in the appropriate civil registry before contracting the subsequent marriage.

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