We all share everyday experiences, no matter where you live in the world: marriage and divorce.In the Western culture, the vast majority of people will be married by the age of 50, over 90%. Whereas around 40-50% of married couples divorce. But, unlike the western cultures, there are some parts of the world where divorce, it’s simply not allowed. 

The Philippines have banned divorce. They have a devoutly Roman Catholic population, over 80%, who firmly believes that divorce is a sin and therefore unthinkable to even consider splitting from your chosen spouse or partner. The law does permit a legal separation, though it is only under certain circumstances.   

So, how do you separate in the Philippines? Keep on reading to find out. 

Philippine Law: How To Get An Annulment

Getting an annulment is the only legal way a married couple can separate under Philippine law. But what is an annulment? 

An annulment is the law saying that a marriage is not valid. It effectively cancels the marriage and erases it from a legal perspective. This is different from a divorce because divorce ends a marriage, whereas marriage never existed in an annulment.  

In the Philippines law, article 45 of the Family Code, there are six legal reasons a couple can obtain an annulment. 

  • Fraud 
  • Impotence or not being able to consummate the marriage 
  • Severe std or other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Psychological incapacity
  • No parental consent: if either part is between 18-21 
  • Consent obtained by force, intimidation or under any influence

Even if you can meet one or more of these requirements, the process can still be drawn out. An annulment in the Philippines can take anywhere between two and five years to complete fully, let alone being expensive. 

If any children are involved, under seven, then custody of these children go, automatically to the mother. There are little to no child support services either or support for the spouse. 

But what happens if you marry someone who is not from the Philippines?  Well, that is where things get a little nuance. 

Can I Obtain an Overseas Divorce in the Philippines?

getting divorce in the philippines

Suppose you are in a valid marriage between a Philippine national and a foreigner. Can you still obtain a divorce? In that case, a divorce can be obtained by using the home country of the foreign spouse.  

By going this route, the divorce will be seen as a valid reason for separating the two parties. These two people would then be free to marry again in the Philippines.

This law only applied to mixed nationality couples until recently. Now, the law has been widened to apply to Filipinos who call another country their permanent residence.  

If you both are foreign nationals living within the Philippines, then the procedure is different again. 

Can you Divorce Under English Law Living in the Philippines? 

Suppose you marry a Filipino partner, then reside in the Philippines. Would you still qualify for a divorce under English law? In this case, they would. Despite living overseas, and away from their home country, you can still use the English court system. 

This option is what most people, who want a divorce, would opt for. The equality of the English court system is, undoubtedly, an attractive option. If you live in the Philippines, it may be the only option you could choose. 

You must, however, reach specific criteria to be able to gain a divorce in the Philippines using the courts in England. These are: 

  • If you/your partner was born in the UK, and you/their fathers were born in the UK. 
  • If you/your partner was not born in the UK, but you/their fathers were. 
  • If neither you/your partner was born in the UK, or neither fathers were, but they moved to the UK before you/your partner was born, and they intend to remain permanently 
  • You/your partner has lived in the UK for a length of time and intends to remain permanently

As you can see, there are specific circumstances needed to qualify. To qualify, you need to look at a persons domicile rather than their location. The concept is complicated but is as defined as above. 

After you have settled the issue of the domicile and whether you qualify for an overseas divorce, you must qualify for a divorce in the UK. 

To obtain a divorce in the UK, you must be married for at least a year before filing to the courts. Then you must provide evidence that the marriage has broken down using one or more of these facts listed below. 

The reasons can be: 

  • Adultery: from either party  
  • Unreasonable behaviour: from either party 
  • Either party is deserted for a continuous period lasting at least two years 
  • Both parties have lived apart for two years, continuously and consent to a divorce 
  • Both parties have lived apart for five years, without consent, continuously

If the divorce is uncontested, the procedure takes around four to six months. More information about divorce in the UK can be found here. 

Is the Divorce Law Going to Change in the Philippines?

During the last few years, there are no planned changes towards the law coming up any time soon. There have been groups that have fought hard to legally obtain the right to divorce; however, this has been generally fruitless. 

In 2018, the Philippines’ congress, the lower house, passed a divorce bill despite opposition from the president. The bill would allow the courts to dissolve a marriage if the marriage was broken beyond repair. 

The new bill would also give the courts the power to decide custody of the children under seven in their best interests. 

What needs to happen to make divorce legal in the Philippines? The only way this would happen would be for the Senate to pass a counter-bill. However, this counter bill has not been drafted yet and doesn’t look likely to be drafted any time soon. 

Several attempts have been passed that would allow couples to divorce legally, but they have failed to reach past the committee stage. 

There may be some good news for supporters, though, as a bill in 2020 has been proposed to allow divorce to be legal. 

The Bill Preposed in 2020 

On the 4th of February 2020, a bill was passed to preposing the legalisation of divorce in the Philippines. Opponents of this bill have come out and said that this bill would totally destroy the way of life in the Philippines. 

The author, Rep. Edcel Lagman, has refuted these claims and reaffirmed the bill’s goal was to allow women a way out of abusive relationships. This will also allow them to keep their dignity and self-worth. 

He stated that the divorce procedure would only affect when the marriage was irreparable. All other options of reconciliation or repair had been tried. The bill requires a six month cooling period between the parties after filing for divorce. 

Within this period, both parties must try to reconcile. Otherwise, the divorce would not be able to go ahead. 

Whether or not this bill goes ahead remains to be seen. It requires further debate and analysis by the whole house. But this is close to being another step on the road for divorce to be legal. 

Conclusion

There seems to be a long way to go to legalise divorce in the Philippines, and as it stands now, it is still one of two countries that it is illegal. 

It may change in the future. We will have to see. For the moment, the best route you can take to separate is an annulment. 

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