Annulment, loosely referring to the processes of declaration of nullity or annulment itself, is complicated, time-consuming and expensive. This is the usual complaint we’ve heard from clients, both existing and prospective, on the only legal process allowed by Philippine law to end marriage for Christians. Of course, we’ve known a lot of cases when people converted to Islam in an attempt to take advantage of the divorce provisions under Sharia law. The other alternative is death, which severs the marital bond (incidentally, any attempt on the life of the other spouse is merely a ground for legal separation).
The annulment process in the Philippines, the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, is heavily influenced by the annulment process of the Catholic Church. The grounds for annulment, including psychological incapacity, are pattered after Church laws. It is, therefore, interesting to note the latest pronouncement of Vatican on the simplification of the process of obtaining marriage annulments. On 22 September 2014, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ creation of an 11-member group of theologians and canon lawyers to “focus on the preparation of a proposal for the reform of the marriage annulment process, seeking to simplify and streamline the procedure, while safeguarding the principle of the indissoluble nature of marriage.”
Late last year, Pope Francis addressed the the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the highest court in the Catholic Church, also overseeing marriage annulments):
The simplification of Church annulment will have a number of possible effects. Spouses who successfully secure a court annulment cannot automatically get married in church. A separate Church annulment must be secured. The simplification of Church rules on annulment, therefore, should be a welcome news for Catholics who wish to remarry again in church. On the other hand, this simplification of Church rules on annulment should also be carried over to the court annulment in terms of the simplification of rules.
Divorce, of course, is an entirely separate issue.