DIVORCE IN THE PHILIPPINES

Art. 26 of the Family Code provides that “all marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 3637 and 38.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”

The case of Republic v Manalo[1], talks about paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code which speaks of “a divorce x x x validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.” Based on a clear and plain reading of the provision, it only requires that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The letter of the law does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce proceeding.

A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in like circumstances as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instances, it is extended as a means to recognize the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operations of their alien spouses are severed by operation on the latter’s national law.

The facts in the case of Nullada v. Civil Registrar[2] are similar to the circumstances in the case in Manalo. The RTC’s decision refused to recognize the divorce decree that was mutually obtained by the Filipino spouse and her foreigner spouse in Japan solely on the ground that the divorce was jointly initiated by the spouses. The Court finds no reason to deviate from its recent disposition on the issue, as made in Manalo. The dismissal of the Filipino Spouse’s petition based on the trial court’s interpretation of Article 26 of the Family Code is erroneous in light of the Court’s disposition in the case of Manalo. The fact that the divorce was by the mutual agreement of the spouses was not sufficient ground to reject the decree in this jurisdiction.

While the spouses divorce decree was not disputed by the OSG, a recognition of the divorce, however, could not extend as a matter of course. Under prevailing rules and jurisprudence, the submission of the decree should come with adequate proof of the foreign law that allows it. The Japanese law on divorce must then be sufficiently proved. The Filipino spouse failed to satisfy the foregoing requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions on Divorce in the Philippines

 

Is there divorce in the Philippines?

 

Generally, there is no divorce in the Philippines under the Family Code. The law allows only the declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground, among others, of psychological incapacity (Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines), minority, lack of a marriage license, and multiple marriages (Article 35 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

However, a Filipino can obtain a divorce from the foreign spouse and such divorce be recognized by Philippine courts. In a recent Supreme Court en banc ruling, it recognizes the Filipino’s right to have the foreign divorce recognized in the Philippines, and to be free to remarry, regardless of who files for and obtains the divorce.

 

Will my divorce abroad be recognized in the Philippines?

 

Yes, the Philippine courts will recognize the foreign divorce. As illustrated in the Manalo case (G.R. No. 221029, 24 April 2018), the Court of Appeals ruled that Manalo (a Filipino married to a Japanese national) should have the right to remarry. The recognition of divorce is contained in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, to wit:

Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38. 

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

 

I filed for divorce against my foreign spouse, will the divorce abroad be recognized in the Philippines?

 

As illustrated above the recognition of divorce is contained in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, to wit:

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

Thus, paragraph 2 of Article 26 “authorizes our courts to adopt the effects of a foreign divorce decree precisely because the Philippines does not allow divorce,” and that the idea is to “avoid the absurd situation of a Filipino as still being married to his or her alien spouse, although the latter is no longer married to the former because he or she had obtained a divorce abroad that is recognized by his or national law.”

It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the one who initiated the foreign divorce or the respondent. Whether the Filipino spouse initiated the foreign divorce proceeding or not, a favorable decree dissolving the marriage bond and capacitating his or her alien spouse to remarry will have the same result: the Filipino spouse will effectively be without a husband or wife. A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in like circumstances as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instance, it is extended as a means to recognize the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operations of their alien spouses are severed by operation on the latter’s national law.

 

Can I remarry immediately after my foreign spouse obtained a divorce?

 

You must have the Philippine court of law recognize the divorce by filing a Petition for Recognition of a Foreign Divorce by a licensed lawyer in the Philippines invoking Article 26 of the Family Code. 

It was discussed in the case of Koike vs. Koike [G.R. No. 215723, 27 July 2016] that “in order for a divorce obtained abroad by the alien spouse to be recognized in our jurisdiction, it must be shown that the divorce decree is valid according to the national law of the foreigner. Both the divorce decree and the governing personal law of the alien spouse who obtained the divorce must be proven. Since our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment, our law on evidence requires that both the divorce decree and the national law of the alien must be alleged and proven like any other fact”.

 

If my spouse and I went abroad to file for divorce, will it be recognized in the Philippines?

 

No, such divorce obtained by Filipinos abroad will not be recognized in the Philippines. It was held in the case of Garcia vs. Recio that “a marriage between two Filipinos cannot be dissolved even by a divorce obtained abroad, because of Articles 15 and 17 of the Civil Code.  

On matters of status or legal capacity of a person, our civil law adheres to the “nationality rule” provided under Article 15 of the New Civil Code of Philippines, to wit:

“Article 15. Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.”

Since you are still a Filipino living abroad, you are still bound by Philippine laws with respect to your family rights, duties and civil status. Thus, both you and your spouse are still Filipino citizens and there is no divorce in the Philippines under the Family Code. 

[1] G.R. No. 221029

[2] G.R. No. 224548

 

We hope we are able to answer your query. Please be informed that the foregoing legal opinion is based solely on the facts that you have provided us and our appreciation of the same. In case you need further assistance, Duran & Duran-Schulze Law is ready to assist you. Call us at 632-8478-5826 or send an email to info@duranschulze.com. You can also send your message to us here. Thank you.

 

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