Family Law: No Divorce in the Philippines BUT…

True, absolute divorce is not allowed in the Philippines owing to the sanctity and inviolability of marriage as a social institution. Marriage is the foundation of the Filipino family. No less than the 1987 Philippine Constitution recognizes the sanctity of family life and declares it a matter of state policy to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. Hence, even divorce decrees obtained by Filipino citizens abroad are not binding and recognized in our jurisdiction.

HOWEVER, the rule is not absolute as it admits three exceptions, namely:

  1. Divorce between two foreign citizens, if valid in their national laws even if the marriage was celebrated in the Philippines;

  2. Divorce between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner as, under Article 26(2) of the Family Code of the Philippines, where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the foreigner spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law; and

  3. Divorce between a Filipino citizen and a former Filipino citizen, where both parties were Filipino citizens at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but one of them subsequently becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and the latter obtains a valid divorce decree abroad capacitating him or her to remarry; in such a case, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law (see Republic vs. Orbecido III [2005]).

Note that the divorce decree must be obtained abroad by the foreigner spouse or by the former Filipino citizen spouse, and NOT in any case by the Filipino spouse. Likewise, there must be a showing that the divorce decree gave the foreigner spouse legal capacity to remarry because in some jurisdictions, remarriage may be limited or prohibited (Bayot vs. Bayot [2008]).

For Filipino citizens, on the other hand,  who seek to dissolve their marriage for purposes of remarriage, Philippine law grants them three remedies in proper cases, to wit:

  1. File a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, in case of void marriages;

  2. File a Petition for Annulment of Marriage, in case of voidable or annullable marriages; and

  3. File a Petition for Declaration of Presumptive Death, in case the present spouse has well-founded belief that his or her spouse who has disappeared for four consecutive years, or two years where there was danger of death, is dead.

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