Philippines Divorce. Is There Divorce in the Philippines?
- 1 Background Information
- 2 Why There Is (Virtually) No Divorce For Filipinos
- 3 The Catholic Church Does Not Recognize That The Law Of Man Can Terminate a Holy Marriage
- 4 Marriages Are Forever
- 5 Ouch, That’s Strong Medicine There, But A Church Annulment Fixes Things, Right?
- 6 Consider my personal situation as just one example.
- 7 A Lot Different
- 8 Surprised?
- 9 Now, Back To The Legal Side: The Philippine Civil Code of Law is Consistent With Church Law
- 10 That’s the good news.
- 11 So Basically, There’s No Other Way To End a Marriage, Correct?
- 12 Since There Are About 198 Countries Which Allow Divorce, The Ways And Means Are Complex
- 13 Basics Of US Divorce Law
- 14 But What If Bot
- 15 Guam Divorces
- 16 Hong Kong Divorce
- 17 Macau Divorce
- 18 Singapore Divorce
- 19 Philippine Dissolution Of Marriage Conclusions
(Updated 8 November 2018)
What a silly question. Many of you may be saying. “Everyone knows” there is no divorce in the Philippines, don’t they?
Well, in general, this is true.
But there are certain exceptions to the rule, and there are many differences in how the law is applied to:
- Filipino citizens,
- Former Filipino citizens and
- Foreigners in the Philippines.
Before going further here I am going to give you a homework assignment.
Read and consider this excellent article by attorney Joyce Domingo-Dapat.
Not only does she explain most of the situations you might encounter, but unlike me (who has no standing as an attorney), attorney Domingo-Dapat is a practicing Filipino attorney and thus speaks with authority.
Why There Is (Virtually) No Divorce For Filipinos
The Philippines has been a very Roman Catholic country for 400 years or so now.
Even though there are other religions in the Philippines
(in fact, the Philippines even had a non-Catholic president (10 bonus points for those who can name him or her),
the Philippine Constitution and the country’s framework of laws center around Roman Catholic beliefs.
One of those beliefs is the principle that marriages are forever, for better or for worse.
Almost everyone reading this who has ever been married likely uttered those words during their marriage ceremony and pledged to be true to them … but for many of us, “forever” didn’t last longer than the first few bad years together.
The Catholic Church Does Not Recognize That The Law Of Man Can Terminate a Holy Marriage
Therefore, a Catholic who undergoes divorce is still considered married by the Church and s/he can not remarry or live as a man or wife with another.
If this strikes you as strange, or you don’t believe me, just have a conference with your nearest parish priest and he can set you straight on the laws of the Church.
Marriages Are Forever
Catholic theology teaches that on receiving the Sacrament of Marriage, one’s soul receives an indelible mark that cannot be removed and further becomes joined in one flesh.
Thus when one is married, divorce before God is impossible – one is always married, always one flesh with that other person.
So yes, to marry someone who is civilly divorced is to commit adultery because that person is still married to someone else.
Ouch, That’s Strong Medicine There, But A Church Annulment Fixes Things, Right?
An annulment is not a divorce, but rather the teaching that the marriage did not fulfill certain conditions and was therefore invalid. There is only civil remarriage, but before God, there will only ever be one indissoluble marriage.
Consider my personal situation as just one example.
I am not a Catholic. I married a woman who also is not a Catholic, many years ago. We were married in a Christian (but definitely non-Catholic) church.
After some years of marriage, we both decided to seek a civil divorce (legally, in the USA). The divorce was granted by the court, so therefore my first wife and I were both free to remarry.
After a period of time, I did decide to remarry … to my lovely and loving Filipino Catholic wife of today.
This marriage is 100% percent legal under both US and Filipino law.
Bit enter the Roman Catholic church, which has been very important to my wife her entire life, and the story is different.
A Lot Different
My first marriage was recognized by the Catholic church as a Christian marriage (even though not a Catholic marriage)’
In the eyes of the Roman Catholic church I am still married to my first wife of all those many years ago.
Yeah, I bet my first wife would be too, LoL. We both spent a lot of money to get legally “unmarried”.
But for my current legal and loving Catholic wife the situation is worse.
Since she chose to marry me, a man who is divorced, she can not partake in many of the sacraments of the church, like Holy Communion. She is welcome to attend church but she can no longer be a practicing Catholic in full fellowship because she is considered an adulteress.
A lot of what I have been writing about here touches on the legal aspects of marriage divorce and annulment, but if you are a Catholic or planning to marry a Catholic woman, be aware … the civil laws of the Philippines or the Church can’t “fix” everything.
Better be sure that you and your intended understand the full scope of what you are doing.
Now, Back To The Legal Side: The Philippine Civil Code of Law is Consistent With Church Law
Therefore, there is legally no such thing as divorce under Philippine law.
The only way a Filipino (or even a foreigner) within the Philippines can legally terminate a marriage is through the process of legal annulment in the courts.
I won’t be covering annulment in this article, it requires at least several more articles to cover all the ins and outs.
Basically, an annulment suit takes $10,000 USD and a minimum of several years to complete.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, it is not easy to get an annulment case successfully through the courts. The grounds upon which the court will grant an annulment are few and very specific.
You have to work against the fact that every step of the way the legal process is set up to cause your case to fail.
Many have spent a fortune on lawyers, phycologists and court fees and still had their petition for annulment denied.
Basically, if the court (which means the judge assigned to your case), believes the annulment is being requested because one partner or the other just wants to be free to marry someone else, the case is dead in the water. It ain’t going to happen.
So Basically, There’s No Other Way To End a Marriage, Correct?
Well for couples where one partner is a foreigner and the other a Filipino, there sometimes is a way.
If the foreigner “half” of the partnership were to file a divorce in a country other than the Philippines (a country where divorce is allowed), when that divorce is granted the foreigner spouse is then legally free to marry again.
All the preceding explanation about the laws and views of the Catholic church still apply, but at least there is a legal (civil law) way to get free.
Since There Are About 198 Countries Which Allow Divorce, The Ways And Means Are Complex
I have many non-US readers here, and for you guys and gals I have to just assign the task of researching your own country’s laws to you.
For my US citizen readers, the task is also complex, but I’ll throw you a few tips and guidelines (purely personal opinion, not legal advice, I am not a lawyer, remember?)
Basics Of US Divorce Law
Really, there is no such thing as the “US Divorce Law”.
Under the US Constitution, divorce issues being to the various US states, and not to the federal government. So there are at least 51 (counting the District of Columbia which also has its own law) different sets of legal rules that apply.
Some US states allow just one citizen who is married to file for divorce. Other states require both parties to a divorce to be either resident or domiciled on the state.
Most states have their own rules as to how long parties filing for divorce must reside in the state.
You can start your state by state divorce research here.
But What If Bot
h Parties Need To Be In The USA To File?
Yep, that is a big problem for many mixed Fil-Am marriages. If one party can’t get a visa to travel to the USA then there’s no chance of a divorce, correct?
One possible escape route is if the forigner spouse can not file in his or her own state without the presence of the other party, or if s/he has not established domicile in a US state, they could try Guam.
Divorces granted by a Guamanian court are valid in any US state and in most any other country which recognizes mainland USA divorces.
Guam divorces are relatively cheap (on the order of $1200 to $1400 USD) and they are extremely quick … the actual time in Guam for only one of the married couple to reside in Guam is only 7 days. You can’t get much quicker than that.
More info on 7 day G
Hong Kong Divorce
Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region (SAR)” of China allows divorce between foreigners. Costs are comparable with Guam divorces, but a major issue for many is the requirement that at least one party of the divorcing couple reside in Hong Kong for three years before filing. Three years is a long time.
However, a LOT of Filipinos work in Hong Kong and they might be able to obtain a divorce while they are working and living in Hong Kong, something they wouldn’t be able to do in the Philippines at any price in any amount of time.
Further info on
Macau is also a SAR of China. Divorce laws there are similar to Hong Kong. But, again, a great many Filipinos work in Macau, so it may be possible to meet the residency requirements while simply working there to earn a living.
Info on how to divorce in Macau here.
Singapore is another nation where Filipinos can easily travel without a visa.
It’s also a nation which allows divorces between foreigners, as long as they meet Singaporean residency requirements.
Many Filipinos live and work in Singapore, so once again, the residency time may not be an issue.
Philippine Dissolution Of Marriage Conclusions
OK, more than 1600 words there and in some ways, I feel I have barely scratched the surface of the divorce subject.
Do you now feel you know a bit more about …
Philippines Divorce. Is There Divorce in the Philippines?