It might be a bit like jinxing the relationship you are about to enter into by talking about the ending of a marriage, but the reality for many foreigners who find their soul-mate in the Philippines is that she could already be married to someone else. The common misconception is that there is no divorce in the Philippines. This is not technically correct. You can end a marriage, but it isn’t easy, quick or inexpensive.
What is Divorce?
Divorce is the ending of a legal marriage, so the first thing to consider is whether the marriage itself is legal. Many, believe it or not, aren’t, or rather they might not have completely complied with the relevant legislation that governs marriage in the Republic of the Philippines. This is The Family Code. The Family Code, Chapter 1, Article 1 defines marriage as:
‘…a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code. (52a)’
I personally know couples who were married by persons at least the groom believed to be legally capable of conducting the ceremony; but in fact were not who they purported to be. It happens, this is da Pilipeens! If that was the case then the marriage would be null and void from the outset and this brings us to the two terms you will commonly hear when discussing the topic of divorce.
Annulment or Nullity of Marriage
If the marriage was not legal from the outset, then it is void and it will be a ‘Declaration of Absolute Nullity’ that you seek. Most people refer to this as an ‘annulment’, but that is not technically accurate. You can’t annul something that never legally existed, only declare it as ‘null and void’.
A marriage is voidable, by means of annulling it, if it was legal at the time it was entered into but in the meantime there have developed grounds for annulment. It is important you understand the difference because it has a very major bearing on how you go about ending the arrangement and making the partners legally free to remarry someone else.
If you wish to declare the marriage null from the beginning, you need to rely on Articles 35, 36, 37 and 38 of The Family Code. To obtain an annulment, it is Article 45 that applies. This series of articles will explore the topic and, hopefully, give the reader sufficient information to be able to continue their own research and be better armed with facts and information before they commit to either a new relationship or divesting themselves of the large sums of money that will be involved.
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), Dip.Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz