By Atty. Rita Linda V. Jimeno
The story of Rosanne in my column last week triggered numerous reactions from readers that merit discussion. As a jump-off point, we shall encapsulate Rosanne’s case. Her Filipino husband who used to be loving and conscious of his familial obligations, abandoned all his duties toward her and their children when, as a result of his prolonged employment abroad, he found a new love. He then divorced her and married his lover with whom he now has two children.
We said that there is a gap in our family law because while her husband is no longer married to her, she remains married to him, an incongruous situation which our family law offers no solution to… Read Full Article Here
I’ve had a number of on-line conversations lately about folks in the same or similar situations as the lady described in Attorney Jimeno’s article. There is always a lot of discussion when a foreigner and a Filipino marry, often centering around where the marriage should take place and where, or when (if ever) they could divorce.
A couple facts (from my lay knowledge only, of course).
The Philippines recognizes US marriages and the US recognizes Philippine marriages.
Thus where the couple marries has makes no difference in legality within the Philippines.
The Philippine Family Code resembles the US law of the community property states. If there is no prenuptial agreement (commonly known as a Marriage Settlement in the Philippines) all the couples property becomes community property, so those with significant assets, children of previous marriages, etc. should really seek competent legal advice before saying “I do”,
Once a couple marries they can not be divorced in the Philippines. The Family Code does not allow it.
(A notable exception, if the marriage falls under Sharia (Muslim) law, there may be a legal (recognized by the NSO) divorce alternative available. This is way out of my area of expertise. Those of you of the Islamic faith or married to one of the Islamic faith, must seek guidance from someone competent to advise under the Sharia Law).
The couple may:
- — Obtain a legal separation under Philippine law. This can settle support, visitation, property disagreements and the like, but it is not a divorce, and neither party is free to marry again.
- — Obtain a legal annulment, If this is granted under Philippine law the couple are then both free to remarry. (Note, this has nothing to do with annulment within the Catholic church — two separate issues)
- — Obtain a divorce outside the Philippines. If this is done, the results under Philippine lawvary depending on the citizenship of both parties and also who files for the divorce.
- — If both parties are citizens of another country the divorce is recognized by the Philippines
- — If one party is Filipino and the other a non-Filipino then:
- — If the foreigner files (is the “petitioner”) then the divorce is valid and the Filipino becomes free to re-marry.
- — If the Filipino files and the divorce is granted then the Filipino partner is still considered married under the family code and may not re-marry within the Philippines.
If you are a Filipino who was ever married in the Philippines and who now wants to remarry, start now getting your ducks in order to be able to begin the annulment process.
Your previous marriage will not just “go away”. To my mind, this also applies even if you are outside the Philippines currently and living under another country’s laws.
You may want to return to the Philippines someday, or you may want future children to be able to enjoy their Filipino birthright without the legal stigma of illegitimacy.
If you are a foreigner, intending to marry a Filipino who was previously married and is now legally separated or effectively abandoned by a former spouse, be aware s/he may very well still be married under the laws of the Philippines.
Grit your teeth and do the right thing at the right time … ignoring these legalities may prove more costly farther down the road than acting on them now. Or so Philly opines.