Marriage, Nationality and Divorce

Marriage, Nationality and Divorce

(Updated 22 October 2019)
Here’s an article I republished many years ago and just recently updated.
And updated yet again because of some activity in the area of divorce law, and statements made by the Pope on a visit to the Philippines.

Things Are Different in the Philippines

Here’s an excellent article that will serve as a primer on the way divorce, annulment and citizenship work in the Philippines.
It describes the strange and often cruel way the laws about marriage, divorce, annulment and citizenship are applied to citizens of the Philippines (especially, female citizens).
Those of you considering marriage with a citizen of the Philippines really need to do some studying and “thinking through”.  Virtually everything regarding marriage and divorce here is different than what you know from the USA,

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

Logically You Can Not Be Married and Unmarried (Divorced) At The Same Time

But you have to take into account that here in the Philippines, logic does not always apply.

I’ve had a number of online 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.

Now to most people’s logic, “marriage” and “divorce” (or “annulment”) are binary options.  You can’t be in both situations at the same time.

But There’s a Different Sort Of Logic At Work Here In The Philippines

A couple of facts to consider (from my lay knowledge only, of course, if you need a lawyer, consult one).

The Philippines recognizes US marriages and the US recognizes Philippine marriages.

This is an important point.

People write me all the time and ask things like, “well we were married in the Philippines, but now I live in California, so my Philippine marriage doesn’t mean anything here, does it”?

Well, actually it does mean something.  It means a LOT.

Married is married, under US or Philippine law.

Thus, where the couple marries has made no difference in legality within the Philippines or the United States.

If you are married, then you are married.

Forever, unless death or a court (a court which has jurisdiction over you) dissolves the marriage.

A Marriage Can Have Huge Property Considerations

Marriage, Nationality and Divorce in the PhilippinesThe Philippine Family Code resembles the US law of the various strict community property states.

There are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska is an opt-in community property state that gives both parties the option to make their property community property.

If there is no prenuptial agreement (commonly known as a Marriage Settlement in the Philippines) all the couple’s property becomes community property.

On the day of the marriage, each member of the marriage owns half of everything the partner owns.

This joint ownership lasts forever, again, unless one party dies or the marriage is dissolved by a court.

(A court with jurisdiction.  This can become very important).

Those with significant assets, children of previous marriages, etc. should really seek competent legal advice before saying “I do”.

Note:  It doesn’t matter who paid for some asset or property.  For example, let’s say you, as a single man, paid the costs of constructing a home on the property your girlfriend owned.

Now, once you get married.

Half that house belongs to her.  That’s what “community property” really means.

Once a couple marries they cannot be divorced in the Philippines.

The Family Code does not allow divorce.

(A notable exception, if the marriage falls under Sharia (Muslim) law, there may be a legal (recognized by the NSO/PSA) 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. 

But Saria Law divorces can only be granted for marriages celebrated under Sharaia law. 

This specially excludes Christain ceremones and Philippines civil ceremonies … so it is a prety small “loophole”)

If There Is No Divorce, What Alternative Are There?  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 under Philippine law the couple is 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 law vary depending on the citizenship of both parties and also who files for the divorce.
    • If both parties are citizens of another country the divorce can be recognized by the Philippines.
    • If one party is Filipino and the other a non-Filipino then:
      • If the foreigner files (that is s/he becomes the “Petitioner” or the “Plaintiff”) then the divorce is valid and the Filipino becomes free to re-marry. (I have many folks write and ask me, can’t we be just “Mutually Divorced”?  Not if you want it recognized in the Philippines.  The person who files the divorce MUST be the foreigner partner.
      • If the Filipino files and the divorce is granted then the Filipino partner is still considered married under the Philippine Family Code and may not remarry within the Philippines.  If S/he remarries they may also be technically guilty of the crime of bigamy, a prosecutable offense under Philippine law.

Bottom Line To All This:

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”.

A lot more on this situation here: if it applies to you.

And it doesn’t matter how long ago you married, how long it has been since your first husband deserted you, etc., you are still married.

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.

You may also be guilty of the crime of adultery of you spend so much as one night with her.

She is still another man’s wife under the Philippine law and he can still file charges against you. (OR, demand payment to avoid charges … a very frequent blackmail situation here).  If you ever find yourself in this situation, you MUST read this article.  It could keep you out of jail .. or perhaps even alive.

Making It Hard On Yourself In The Philippines.

Actually, although it seldom happens, if the woman’s husband catches you and his wife together In flagrante delicto  (literally “doing the deed”) he can shoot you to death and suffer almost no legal consequences.  It is regarded as a justifiable homicide.  Want to roll the dice on how often “seldom” is?  I sure don’t.

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, regarding Marriage, Nationality and Divorce in the Philippines.