Divorce is not allowed in the Philippines and divorce secured anywhere by a Filipino is not recognized in this jurisdiction. If you’re a Filipino, it doesn’t matter where you get a divorce: such divorce is invalid/void in the Philippines. This is because under the nationality principle (Art. 15, Civil Code), all Filipinos – where they may be in the world – are bound by Philippine laws on family rights and duties, status, condition, and legal capacity. In certain instances, however, a divorce validly secured abroad by a non-Filipino may be recognized here in the Philippines.
Is there a legal provision that recognizes divorce in the Philippines?
Yes. On 6 July 1987, President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 209, otherwise known as the “Family Code.” Article 26 of this law, which took effect on 3 August 1988, reads:
All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35, 37, and 38.
On 17 July 1987, Executive Order No. 227 was signed into law, amending Article 26 of the Family Code, among others. Article 26 now reads:
ART. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35(1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.
What are circumstances that would make Article (Family Code) applicable?
We have a basic discussion on Article 26 of the Family Code. Included in that discussion are the two elements that must be shown before the second paragraph of Article 26 is applied:
- There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
- A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
Is this provision applicable to former Filipinos?
Yes. Article 26 was later interpreted by the Supreme Court to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry. (Philippines vs. Orbecido III, G.R. No. 154380, 5 October 2005).
Article 26 provides that the divorce must be secured by the foreigner-spouse. What if the foreigner-spouse continually maltreats the Filipino/Filipina spouse, isn’t it unfair that the Filipino/Filipina can’t initiate divorce?
It may be unfair, but that’s the law, consistent with the State’s policy of not allowing divorce for Filipinos. This doesn’t mean, however, that the Filipino/Filipina has no other recourse. If the circumstances fall under the grounds for annulment/declaration of nullity, then the marriage could still be annulled or declared null and void from the beginning.
If there’s already a divorce validly secured abroad (by the foreigner-spouse or the Filipino spouse who became a foreign citizen, losing his/her Filipino citizenship in the process), can the Filipino spouse immediately remarry?
No. The existence of a valid divorce decree, however, does not automatically entitle the Filipino to remarry in the Philippines. The foreign divorce decree must be judicially recognized in the Philippines. This means that the proper action or petition must be filed in a Philippine court. For purposes of re-marriage, the divorce validly secured abroad is not automatically recognized here in the Philippines.
Isn’t it enough that I already forwarded the divorce decree to the Philippine Embassy (or the Department of Foreign Affairs) and the National Statistics Office (NSO)?
No. The foreign divorce decree must be recognized here in the Philippines; a process which may only be done through the courts.
Why should we waste money in filing a petition in court for the recognition of the divorce decree?
This is the requirement of law, unfortunately. The divorce decree must be proven, just like any fact, in court. The presentation of the divorce decree is insufficient. Proof of its authenticity and due execution must be presented. This necessarily entails proving the applicable laws of the jurisdiction where the foreigner-spouse (who could be a former Filipino) is a national. One of the requirements under Article 26 is that the decree of divorce must be valid according to the national law of the foreigner.