It should be recognised when looking at this subject, that any personal legal changes to relationships can have knock on effects if you are an Expat, especially in the area of business entities, land use and visa status.
While there are several ways to end a marriage relationship in the Philippines divorce is not yet one of them. If it were the process, would undoubtedly become less expensive, but the knock on effects would still remain, under current law.
Most Expats are involved in this process as third parties, trying to extract loved ones from dead relationships, so they can build a life together. That said the information contained in this post will benefit both the Expat seeking a legal change in their own relationship as well as those assisting another through the process.
Before we look at the different types of legal changes to relationships, we need to acknowledge that despite the separation of church and state in the Philippines, the waning, but still relatively strong influence of church organisations, means that some of these impose rituals, restrictions or rules over and above those required by civil law, pointing to their understanding of passages from a holy book such as the Bible, as the basis of the requirement. This includes requirements for obtaining a separate church based annulment, and restrictions on re-marrying.
These impositions may seem to be minor inconveniences to be brushed aside and dealt with later, but doing that could be a major mistake. Whether you remain in the Philippines or go to another country, the same additional rules, restrictions and rituals will still apply, so for both your sake and that of the person you are assisting please ensure that the implications of an annulment on their lives, and by association your life are fully discussed.
It may be that both of you are happy with your churches requirements and will readily comply. That is an ideal outcome. If however you are not happy you need to consider the following.
- How will your churches reaction affect your spiritual life. Will you still be able to fellowship with your family and friends, or will you be excommunicated to one degree or another.
Could you comfortably fellowship in a more liberal church environment, maybe with rituals you are not familiar with.
If the answer is no then you may want to reconsider either the legal relationship changes, or your subsequent plans. That may seem harsh, but here at Life Philippines we have seen several instances where the results of a person going against deeply held beliefs has led to a further relationship failure. Good for neither party.
If you are happy to “buck the system” there are many congregation accepting of diverse life circumstances without imposing judgement, that you could join if necessary, leaving you only with a the slightly more flexible “Philippines Family Code” to navigate.
That this influence overflows the boundary between Church and State can be seen both in the Family Code itself but also in this comment made in a particular Supreme Court ruling.
“Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.”
In that code are laid out the legal requirements to obtain a variety of legal changes to your relationship.
All Petitions for legal changes to relationships must be filed in the Family Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six months prior to the date of filing “or in The case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner.
All legal changes to relationships where there are children. place on the Court the extra responsibility of ensuring that children are adequately cared for both going forward and in terms of their share of any property of the relationship. This can result in property having to be sold or having a lien placed on it that ensures their share cannot be liquidated, without them receiving the proceeds
Those legal changes to a relationship are:
- It is a recognition that the spouses no longer see themselves as husband and wife. thus not obliging them to support each other or to live together as a couple. To establish a timeline these agreements often begin in the office of the Barangay Captain, where the couple both make a declaration confirming the above, before moving toward expensive court action.
There are ten major grounds outlined in Section 55 of the Family Code under which an application can be filed, these in fact cover most situations where a couple may wish to separate.
Only the husband or the wife can file for a legal separation.
However this is often not a realistic solution as the couple are constrained from developing other relationships, as on one hand the law attempts to preserve the union, yet on the other it requires no obligation to fulfill the very important marital obligations of cohabitation and support.
For Expats at best it is a stop-gap measure that has little to offer if there is any intent by either party to enter into new relationships.
Only The husband or wife can petition for the voiding of a marriage. Which looks at declaring that a marriage never was, because certain criteria for legality were never met. The Family Code of the Philippines states in Articles 35, 36, 37 and 38 the following grounds required to declare a marriage void.
Marriages contracted by any party below eighteen years of age even with the consent of parents or guardians. In this case the grounds are lack of legal capacity.
Marriages carried out by any person not legally authorized to do so. Where either or both parties believed that the marriage was legal this may not be a ground.
Marriages conducted without a properly issued license except under the following circumstances.
- a) Article 27 – in case either or both of the contracting parties are at the point of death,
the marriage may be solemnized without requiring a marriage license even if the ailing party
b) Article 28 – if the residence of either party is so located that there is no means of transportation to enable such party to appear personally before the civil registrar may be
solemnized without the marriage license.
c) Article 33 – the marriages among Muslims or among members of the ethnic cultural communities may be performed validly without the marriage license, provided that they are solemnized in accordance with their customs, rites or practices.
d) Article 34 – the marriage license is not necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together for at least five (5) years and without any legal impediment to marry each other.
Those marriages deemed bigamous or polygamous marriages except those covered by the laws of presumption of death of the absent spouse.
Marriages contracted through mistake of one contracting party as to the identity of the other;
Any subsequent marriage shall be null and void if the partition and distribution of the proprieties of the spouses, the childrens’ presumptive legitimes, which is the share of inheritance made by law to the children of an annulled relationship and the judgment of absolute nullity of the marriage are not recorded in the necessary civil registry and registries of property.
Any psychological incapacity at the time of the marriage celebration, which prevents either the husband or wife from fulfilling the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall also be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after the solemnization.
Psychological incapacity means that one or both spouses have abnormal interpersonal behavior, or a psychological characteristic which inhibits the spouse to fulfill the essential obligations of marriage.
The interpretation of this part of the code was relaxed slightly in a recent Supreme Court appeal which was upheld, but it should be remembered this was for one case, and the presiding judge made it clear that, each case is different and should be considered on its merits. Here is the summary.
Those Marriages between ascendants and descendants of any degree; between brothers and sisters whether full- or half-blood are incestuous and void from the beginning.
Those marriages which though not incestuous between the following relatives are void from the beginning for reasons of public policy:
- 1. Between collateral blood relatives, whether legitimate or illegitimate, up to the fourth civil degree;
2. Between step-parents and step-children;
3. Between parents-in-law and children-in-law;
4. Between the adopting parent and the adopted child;
5. Between the surviving spouse of the adopting parent and the adopted child;
6. Between the surviving spouse of the adopted child and the adopter;
7. Between an adopted child and and a legitimate child of the adopter;
8. Between adopted children of the same adopter;
9. Between parties where one, with the intention to marry the other, killed the other person’s spouse, or his or her own spouse.
Once the decision of nullity has been issued by the court it must be registered with Local Civil Registrar where the marriage was registered, the Civil Registry of the place where the Family Court is situated and with the National Statistics Office (NSO). Registration of the approved partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses, in the proper Register of Deeds where the real properties are located; and if there are children: the delivery of the children’s presumptive legitimes in cash, property, or sound securities.
Is about the discovery of thing about your partner or your situation which would have resulted in the union not taking place if it had been known prior to it taking place. It requires that upon discovery the party affected immediately leaves the relationship. The grounds for this in the Philippines are found under Article 45 as follows:
- Lack of parental consent. Action can be undertaken by the spouse whose parent, or guardian, or person exercising substitute parental authority did not give his or her consent, within five years after attaining the age of twenty-one unless, after attaining the age of twenty-one, such party freely cohabitated with the other as husband or wife; or the parent, guardian or person having legal charge of the contracting party, at any time before such party has reached the age of twenty-one.
The above fits, in my view, into the category of voiding the marriage as consent is a matter of law. However I am not a lawyer and welcome comment about my observation. I accept, of course, that this is where it stands.
The following are clearly in that category that says I did not know this about my intended or I was not in a position to resist the demands placed on me.
Insanity at the time of the marriage. This requires a petition from either the sane spouse who had no knowledge of the others insanity; or any relative, guardian, or person having legal charge of the insane, at any time before the death of either party; or by the insane spouse during a lucid interval or after regaining sanity, provided that the petitioner, after coming to reason, has not freely cohabited with the other as husband or wife.
Fraud. The injured party whose consent was obtained by fraud, within five years after the discovery of the fraud, provided that said party, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, has not freely cohabited with the other as husband or wife. Article 46 of the Code further details the meaning of fraud as follows:
- (1) Non-disclosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude; that being defined as “It (moral turpitude) implies something immoral in itself, regardless of the fact that it is punishable by law or not.
(2) Concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of the marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband;
(3) Concealment of sexually transmissible disease, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage; once again I find it strange that this is not included in the final provision of Article 45, but whom am I, just a blogger. or
(4) Concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage.
No other misrepresentation or deceit as to character, health, rank, fortune or chastity shall constitute such fraud as will give grounds for action for the annulment of marriage. (86a)
Force, intimidation or undue influence. The injured party whose consent was obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence, within five years from the time the force, intimidation, or undue influence disappeared or ceased, provided that the force, intimidation, or undue influence having disappeared or ceased, said party has not thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband or wife;
Impotence The injured party where the other spouse is physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable, within five years after the celebration of marriage
Sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage. The injured party where the other party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable, within five years after the celebration of marriage.
Unless you are funding a relationship change for purely altruistic reasons, you need to be very sure that your expectations beyond the relationship will be fulfilled, otherwise you risk massive disappointment at great cost. Put plainly don’t pay for an annulment unless you are sure as humanly possible, that the type of relationship you want, ie marriage or engagement will follow.
Annulments for Filipino couples in 2012 were averaging 75,000 peso’s in 2012, with several individual cases costing between 300,000 and 1 million peso’s.
If you are personally part of a petition as an Expat you may not be able to avoid the perceived or sometimes real imposition of additional costs. However if you are financing a petition in which you are not personally involved, it may pay to make payment through the petitioner to avoid any possibility of extra charges.