Marriage, Nationality and Divorce

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.

34 thoughts on “Marriage, Nationality and Divorce”

  1. There is an update on the divorce secured by a Filipina in a foreign jurisdiction to a spouse who is a foreigner. Read this:

    So apparently, now the Supreme Court recognizes the right of the Filipina to file for divorce against a foreign spouse and once recognized by the foreign jurisdiction, will be recognized by the Philippines after a Petition for Recognition of a Foreign Divorce Decree.

    1. @ Claudette

      Thanks for passing this on, Claudette. Fingers crossed. After all these years, a ray of light appears around the edges of the prison door so many Filipina have been locked behind for all the years. Their foreigner husbands can obtain freedom via legal divorces but as Filipino citizens, they have been locked in the legal never-never land of being both married and unmarried at the same time. I can’t wait until several test cases have made it through the system completely. Fingers crossed.

  2. My husband went to go visit his mom in South Carolina. We had been long-distance for almost three years after our first 3 kids, and this was going to be a last little trip before he came back to NYC and we’d finally settle down together. For a while, I had a feeling he had been cheating on me with someone from his school that lived in SC, but one of our mutual friends told me she really didn’t think this was the case. Well, while he was at his moms, I looked up that girl’s profile on Facebook and she was posting pictures of them together in South Carolina. C’mon now.” He still denied when he got home so I got access to his devices using darkwebssolutions on gmail, they provide the best in remote access and monitoring multiple people, kids and so on. I had to divorce him and look for a better life.

    1. @ Grin

      Thanks for commenting. Sorry to hear of your troubles. Hope everything will work out for you. Godspeed.

  3. I’m interested in dating a guy I went to high school with. He got married to a Filipina 8 years ago. She has NEVER been to the United States. Why? I don’t know. He told me that their marriage is not recognized here in America. I need advice or just RUN!!!

    1. Hi Christina,

      Thanks for contributing. I’m not a lawyer but you can check these facts with any lawyer:

      1. There are a thousand reasons she might not have ever been to the USA. Getting a visa to come to the US is very difficult for Filipino citizens, even ones married to a US citizen in some cases. Too many reasons why she hasn’t come to the US to go into here, but the important thing to remember is:

      2. If the marriage was legal in the Philippines it is legal in the USA. The Philippines and the USA by treaty recognize all valid marriages. Many US citizens seem to think one can be married in different counties just because of the geographical separation, but this is not so. Sort of like the old song/sea story about the sailor with a girl in every port, but carried to the extreme.

      You already used the most concise word of advice I would have … RUN.

  4. I have an interesting situation:

    Married an divorced a Pinay in Philippines. I divorced her in the US, she cooperated and is fully aware. but she hasn’t filed ROD.

    I have a new Pinay GF and would like to marry her there. Apparently a CEMAR is now required even for foreigners to marry in the Philippines. I’m concerned that if I request a CEMAR that it will show I’m still married to my ex-wife.

    I can’t file for ROD as I’m not a resident of the Philippines and don’t have standing due to that and that the Philippines sees I’m already divorced so there is no benefit for me to get by filing (angain no standing).

    1. @ Bob

      Thanks for contributing. Here’s what I know from personal experience and research, NOT legal advice.

      1. Not all Registrars require the foreigner to submit a CENOMAR.
      2. If it were me, I would apply for a CENOMAR and see what comes back. Cost only $25 or so and you can do it all online, here:
      3. When you say you can’t fil a case for ROD because of “no standing”, where did this information come from? As far as I know, a foreigner has every right to file a case in a Philippine court. I’d be interested in knowing something authoritative on this, because your information may be better than mine.

      Let me know what develops, and best of luck to you.

      1. I have a similar situation with some differences.

        I am British, married to a Filipina in the Philippines. Years later I filed for a Divorce in the UK and was successful.
        Now I have a Philippine girlfriend and we live outside of the Philippines we wish to marry but there may be negative consequences for my girlfriend since NSO records still show that I have a valid Philippine marriage.
        I would like to file my Divorce in the Philippines which apparently requires me to attend in a Philippine court personally. This is complicated by my former wife attempting to file a Concubinage charge when I went to the Philippines with my new girlfriend.
        It looks like we could easily marry in another country but I am concerned that Philippine Law will give negative consequences for my currently single girlfriend who will be see to be marrying an already married man.
        What is the solution?

        1. @ Tony Penny,

          Thanks for contributing. Your case is interesting and rather convoluted. It’s way beyond my pay grade and knowledge level I’m afraid. I can’t help, as I would have no idea where to start. The Philippines is centuries behind in their legal views of marriage and personal interactions. I try to warn people but many don’t see or refuse to heed the warnings. Sorry. Making It Hard On Yourself In The Philippines

          1. Thanks for your comment. I look for cases similar to my own but without any result. I have to cope with an ex Philippine wife who is determined to inflict maximum damage with Concubinage and false violence charges in the event that I return to the Philippines . This means that I cannot file my UK divorce in a Philippine court as this would activate the ex’s opportunity to bring cases to court. I have refused payment of significant sums by way of settlement and I have declined to even considered paying her lawyers 2M Pesos to conduct her cases! I have tried appealing to her better nature to let the past go but Money is king.

          2. If shes your “Ex” wife that would indicate your marriage is divorced or annulled? What am I reading wrong here?

            My only suggestion is, obtain a divorce from the UK courts or Guam as one of the possible examples and then file a case with the Philippine courts to have the divorce recognized. It _IS_ possible for you to file such a case from outside the Philippines. You need a competent Philippine lawyer. Before you talk about throwing two million pesos away on something illegal, spend less on a good lawyer doing something legal. My opinions only, I’m not a lawyer.

      2. I was told the same thing by an attorney here in the Philippines while attempting to have my forever Filipina wife return home according to the Family Code.

        I too would like to find out definitely on this because his advice was to go back to the US, fine for divorce and forget about her.

        I, too, need to present a CENOMAR to obtain a license to remarry in the region I’m in, and would like to know how to update it, or if it’s even necessary

        1. @ Carlo

          Thanks for contributing. I’m not sure what exactly you were told, but yes in many cases now the local registrars are demanding a CENOMAR from foreigners as well as Filipinos. To get one you have to file a case for recognition of the divorce in the Philippine court system.

          Your former wife (and you too) are in the same strange situation … legally unmarried in 198 countries but still legally married in the Philippines (and Vatican City).

          I don’t expect it to change any time soon. Godspeed.

  5. Hi Dave, I married my US naturalized husband here in the US two years ago, I am a
    Filipino citizen, single and never been married when we got married. My husband divorced his ex-wife years back (1987) at the time he was just a Permanent Resident. Will my marriage to my husband be recognized in the Philippines? If not, what would you suggest that I do?

    Would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you

    1. @ Maria

      Thanks for contributing. First, please remember I am not a lawyer licensed in either the Philippines or the USA, and this is not to be taken as legal advice.
      Personal opinion only.

      Indeed your question is a good one. But it is also hard to answer definitively. Once again we run into the underlying craziness of the Philippines laws on marriage and divorce.

      In 1987 your husband apparently had every right to divorce his first wife. This seems obvious, since whatever state he was in granted the divorce. Under US law he was now 100% legally “unmarried” and when you and he later decided to marry. No worries on that score.

      But under Philippine law a case can be made that your husband’s divorce was invalid/illegal since Filipinos do not have the right to divorce. So there’s a thin legal thread through all of this which holds that your husband was still married to his first wife when he married you Thus you present marriage could be considered invalid and your husband guilty of bigamy.

      Really this is a far-fetched idea, and to most people almost silly, but the Philippines is a sovereign country and if that’s what their law says, it isn’t silly, it’s seriously the law and must always be taken into consideration.

      When you ask “will my marriage to my husband be recognized in the Philippines” I guess I have to ask you what you mean by recognition?

      If you have a standard US marriage certificate Usually your marriage license with the report of the marriage attached, and you wanted to say, take out a mortgage in the Philippines I doubt you would need anything else as proof of your marriage. That’s all my wife and I have ever had to show. If you need more formal proof, send your marriage certificate to the nearest Philippine Consulate to be “red ribboned”.

      As far as your husband’s previous marriage and/or his divorce showing up, I just don’t know. It all depends on what was reported in the past to the Philippine PSA (formerly NSO). No way for me to know what may or may not be lurking there. I wish I could give a more positive answer, but I don’t know if anyone can. Godspeed.

  6. Why do Muslims get special rights?
    Whatever, the moral of the story is simple: never ever get married. It’s stupid. There is NO benefits for a man to marry. None. You can have the cow and the milk and not be married.
    So many Filipina are users. And so many foreigners just want what’s natural to them: sex.
    Marrying is a great way to lose half your shit, years and years of your time and maybe even your children.
    Stay unmarried, even if you have kids and remain free. Future you will thank you.
    Fyi: I married a Brasilian. When she got her greencard, great job, etc. She took me to the cleaners. I survived and learned so that you don’t have to.
    Today getting married is stupid in just about every country, ESPECIALLY in the West.
    You’ve been warned! 😉

    1. @ Will

      Thanks for sharing, mate.

      As far as special privileges for Muslims? Ask the Congress, they passed the law.

      For the rstof your comments? It’s nice tome happy.

      Be well.

  7. I hope the government will approve the divorce in the Philippines for all we know not every marriage ends in happily ever both parties deserve to be happy with someone else. Annulment is a very expensive that not all Filipino can afford such.

    1. @ Ulysis

      Hope is a great emotion, but it accomplishes nothing. What is needed are voters in the Philippines who will elect politicians who can change the law, rather than just voting for the color of the candidate’s shirt.

  8. I was a Filipino Citizen with a GREEN CARD and married a Filipina. in the UNITED STATES. We both then naturalized and became US CITIZEN. Marriage lasted for 14yrs. It got ugly and I filed for a divorce and been granted. Now I wanted to get married in the Philippines but it shows on my CENOMAR that I was married with a FILIPINA my ex-wife in the UNITED STATES. They wont allow me to get married in the Philippines with my Filipina Fiancee. What should I do for we are ready to get married

    1. Erick

      Thanks for contributing. Remember I am not a lawyer … but you have to file a case with the Philippine courts for “Recognition Of A Foreign Divorce”, and when granted ask the court to instruct the PSA (formerly NSO) to change your “civil status” to “Single”. So far as I know this is the only way to get the PSA to issue you a CENOMAR and these days many local registrars are demanding this, even of foreigners.

      My own view is, “This Sucks, Big Time” but there’s nothing I can do about it.

      The other option is, petition her for a US Fiancee Visa and then marry her in the States. Costs money and takes time. But so does filing a case for recognition with the Philippine courts.


  9. I have a question. My ex-wife wants to file a divorce in china, im not sure how this works. She says it is what her lawyer advised her and it will be fine/is recognized in the Philippines. I would like to know if this is true or valid? And will we both be able to remarry as what she is telling me.

    1. @ Anthony

      I can’t answer your question without knowing the following:

      1. Your nationality
      2. Your “ex-wife’s” nationality
      3. How did she become your “ex-wife”? Divorce, annulment, or?
      4. If there was a divorce that made her your “ex-wife”, who filed for the divorce? You or her?

      Her attorney may be right or he may be very wrong …citizenship at the time of divorce is what matters, not where the divorce took place.

      Answer the three simple questions and we’ll talk more. Godspeed.

  10. I am a filipina. Married to American last 2017. We were married twice, one is civil, and 2nd is my Christian garden ceremony. I just have a question. Our marriage is filed here in the philippines. We were able to secure certificate from us embassy that he(my spouse )can marry me.
    I just don’t know if my spouse already filed our marriage in U.S. does he need to file it?or it will be automatically registered in u.s though our marriage is here?also he cannot divorce me without me knowing it right?and can he get married in states(california) without divorcing our marriage?Tia thanks

    1. @ Km

      Thanks for writing in. Some interesting questions here. I’ll do my best to answer them, but remember, I am not an attorney and nothing written here is legal advice.

      First of all, on the subject of two marriages, as when you say you were married in a civil ceremony in the Philippines and something called a “my Christian garden ceremony”. I don’t know what this is, but really no couple can marry twice. A prerequisite of a legal marriage is that both parties be single, not married.

      What you can do, and what I suspect you did was a renewal of vows. This is legal as many times as you want to do it, but the only “marriage” you have is your first, civil marriage.

      Now, regarding the registration of marriage in the USA. There really is no such thing. The USA has no national agency like the Philippine PSA, that registers marriages, issues birth and death and CENOMAR certificates and such.

      In the USA, marriages, divorces, legal separations and such are strictly managed by the laws of the individual US states. Each one has its own system of laws and rules.

      Now you have to consider something else before I try to finish my answer. You ask questions like “can he do this” or, “he can’t do this, can he?”.

      You have to decide for yourself what you mean by “can” or “can’t”. Legally, in my personal opinion, he cannot legally divorce you without your knowledge, and he can’t marry another while he is still married to you.

      But there is a practical aspect to the word “can”. Let’s say he wanted to marry another woman while he was in the USA. All he has to do is apply for a state marriage license with that other woman and lie (or conveniently “forget”) that he is married to you. Bingo-bango he and she can be married in as little as an hour or so, and you’ll never know.

      Would this be legal? Almost certainly not, he’d have to lie under oath to obtain the marriage license. But are there any “marriage police” who will swoop down and arrest him? Absolutely not. Nothing would ever happen to him unless some other person knew that he had lied and filed charges of bigamy against him.

      So he “can” ignore his marriage to you if he is immoral and dishonest.

      Can he divorce you without your knowledge?

  11. I have a question I got married in philippines after 4 year of living in USA I filed for a divorce now I want to married another philipina in philippines is there any problema ?

    thank you in advance .

    1. @ Diego

      Hello and thanks for contributing. But seriously, I have no idea how to answer your question. I can’t guess these things, they all matter:

      1. What was your nationality when you married?

      2. You “filed for divorce”, was it granted by a court? In what state or country?

      3. What is your nationality now?

      4. Is there some reason you feel you must marry again in the Philippines?

      “Is there any problems”? There are always problems, but if you answer the questions I asked I’ll try to explain what problems may crop up and how you can deal with them.

      Just remember I am not an attorney and all my answers are personal opinion, not legal advice.

      1. I have a similar situation.
        I am a British male. Married in the Philippines, left under a cloud of potential Concubinage, filed for a UK divorce that was granted under the 5 year separation rule. My current Philippine girlfriend is single and wish to get married.
        I cannot easily file for recognition of my divorce in the Philippines as this requires a personal court appearance still under the dark cloud of a Concubinage charge.
        Getting married overseas is easy but this may have negative consequences for my new Filipina wife who will be regarded as marrying an already married man as far as Philippine Law is concerned.
        Looks almost insolvable as I see it.
        Is there a work around?

        1. Almost the exact same question/comment. Sorry but the answer is the same: @ Tony Penny,

          Thanks for contributing. Your case is interesting and rather convoluted. It’s way beyond my pay grade and knowledge level I’m afraid. I can’t help, as I would have no idea where to start. The Philippines is centuries behind in their legal views of marriage and personal interactions. I try to warn people but many don’t see or refuse to heed the warnings. Sorry. Making It Hard On Yourself In The Philippines

  12. I have immigrant status, went back to marry my BF in the Philippines Jan 2010 at the municipal office, I went back to US same month 1/2010, I never file married person in the US, and use single name and single status in all transactions. I haven’t visited Philippines after that, I became us citizens 2015, as a single person, & use my single name. I never check the status if the marriage was valid. I have a son now in the US 2012 with a single us citizen man. I never married in the us until now. How can I file divorce in the us.

    1. @ Maria Reyes

      Thanks for contributing, and for posing a very interesting question.

      Since you are now a US citizen, the process of divorcing your previous Filipino husband is relatively easy. (none of this stuff is ever really “easy”, but you know what I mean).

      DISCLAIMER I am not an attorney, this is personal opinion only and not to be taken as legal advice.

      Your ability to file for and be granted a divorce depends upon the US state where you reside. Some states allow filing for divorce if only one party to the marriage (you) reside in that state. Other states require that both parties reside in that state. You can find out the requirements where you live here:

      Divorce Residency Requirements

      You can try filing everything yourself, but since your husband is out of the country I strongly advise you to seek competent legal guidance … the rules of how your state may require that notice be served on the husband, etc. are complicated and the devil is in the details.

      Once you are granted the divorce, you are free to marry. Your ex-husband in the Philippines may, if he desires, file a case in the Philippine courts to have the divorced recognized by the Philippines since you were a US citizen when it was filed.

      Now, if there is a problem in your state with filing the divorce because your husband is not a resident, there’s a quick and simple solution. Put yourself (bring along your BF and your son if you want to) and take a week’s vacation in Guam. You can file a divorce in Guam with only one party resident in Guam for 7 days, and after it’s granted, it’s as good as a decree from any US state. More info here:

      Guam Divorces for Philippine Marriages

  13. Hi Phil,

    Just got my NZ citizenship last June 2018. If i want to file a divorce here in NZ and if granted does that mean i am free to marry even if i was married back in PI last 2002?


    1. @ Vinny
      Thanks for contributing and keeping this place alive.

      In so far as I understand the law, yes indeed, if you, as New Zealand citizen, are granted a divorce, then it is legal anywhere. Where you were married has nothing to do with the divorce’s validity.

      However, if you want to marry back here in the Philippines, you might have to file a case here to demand the Philippine courts accept the validity of the divorce. But you are 100% free to marry once the New Zealand court grants your divorce. Godspeed.

      If you wan

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