Recognizing the Divorce of a Filipino and Their Foreign Spouse

Divorce is still not allowed in the Philippines. However, what happens if a Filipino national marries a foreigner and eventually gets a divorce in the foreign spouse’s home country?  Will the divorce be recognized in the Philippines?

In at least two  separate cases, the Supreme Court states that it should be, as long as the Filipino spouse is able to present proof of the validity of the divorce in the country where it was obtained.

Here’s a closer look at the two cases that have set the precedence for this ruling:

  1. G.R. No. 221029 Republic of the Philippines vs. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo

    On April 24, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals reversing the ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City. The RTC denied the petition of  Filipino Marelyn Tanedo Manalo to have her divorce from her Japanese husband recognized and enforced in the Philippines. The divorce was obtained and finalized in Japan, with Manalo providing the documents confirming the validity of the divorce. 

    In rejecting Manalo’s petition, the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City cited Article 26 of the New Civil Code, which states, Where a marriage between Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him/her to remarry under Philippine law.”

    The RTC ruled that since it was Manalo who sought the divorce from her foreigner husband, Article 26 of the New Civil Code does not apply to her case.

    However, the Court of Appeals reversed the RTC’s decision and granted Manalo’s petition to recognize and enforce the divorce in the Philippines, allowing her to marry again and revert to using her maiden name. 

    The Supreme Court upheld the CA’s decision, stating that while the law specifically cites the foreign national as the initiator of the divorce, it is not in the spirit of the law to keep the Filipino spouse bound to the marriage while the foreign spouse is granted the freedom to marry again. 

    In their decision, the Supreme Court stated, “To reiterate, the purpose of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after a foreign divorce decree that is effective in the country where it was rendered, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. The provision is a corrective measure is free to marry (sic) under the laws of his or her country. 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.”

  2. G.R. No. 224548 Marlyn Monton Nullada v. The Civil Registrar of Manila, et. al.

    In this case, Nullada filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court Branch 43 of Manila to recognize the divorce she obtained in Japan from her Japanese spouse, Akira Ito. The Manila RTC denied her petition, citing the same provision in Article 26 of the New Civil Code that was used as basis by the RTC of Dagupan City to deny the petition of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo just a few months prior.

    On January 23, 2019, citing the ruling they recently handed down on the Manalo case, the Supreme Court granted the petition of Nullada. In their decision, the Supreme Court noted, This question of law was directly resolved by the Court in the recent case of Republic of the Philippines v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo,29 which was promulgated by the Court subsequent to the filing of the present petition.”

If you’re in a similar situation as Marelyn Manalo and Marlyn Nullada, these cases can serve as your guide in determining a course of action. We can provide you with the expert legal guidance you need to resolve your particular case. Don’t hesitate to call us at +632 8478-5826 for more information.