I married my high school sweetheart. I tried to understand him but I can no longer take how selfish and irresponsible he is. We have been married for more than 10 years now but he still has not maintained a stable job and he has not quit his vices. He is an alcoholic and, although he does not admit it, I know he has become addicted with prohibited drugs. I am thinking of leaving him for good. Is there a way for me to do this legally?
The Family Code (FC) of the Philippines states that, “husbands and wives are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support” (Article 68). Nevertheless, our laws recognize several grounds which may sever the marital ties or permit the spouses to live separately from each other.
In the situation that you have presented before us, we submit that you may file a petition for legal separation before the Regional Trial Court of the place where you reside. This is for the reason that habitual alcoholism and drug addiction are valid grounds for legal separation (Article 55 (5), FC).
However, we would like to emphasize that there is a reglementary period for filing such petition. Pursuant to Article 57 of the said Code, an action for legal separation must be filed within five (5) years from the time of the occurrence of the cause. Thus, it will be essential for you to specifically allege in your petition not only the fact that your husband is a habitual alcoholic and drug addict, but also the fact when his addiction and dependence to these substances started.
Should the court decide in your favor, you will be entitled to live separately from your husband, although you will remain married to him because a decree of legal separation does not dissolve marital bonds. Your absolute community or the conjugal partnership will be dissolved and liquidated. Your spouse may not be granted any share of the net profits earned by your absolute community or the conjugal partnership, and the same may be forfeited in favor of your common children or, if there are none, the children of your husband by a previous marriage, or in default thereof, in your favor. If you have minor children, their custody may be granted in your favor. In addition, the provisions in the will that you have executed in favor of your husband shall be revoked by operation of law. Any donation you have previously made in favor of your husband, as well as designation as beneficiary in any insurance policy, even if such designation be stipulated as irrevocable, shall likewise be considered revoked (Articles 63 and 64, FC).
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same.
Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org