Divorce secured by foreigner-spouse must be recognized in PH courts

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My daughter, who is now 31 years old, has been working in Japan for four years. She married a Japanese citizen in a simple wedding ceremony there. Her husband wanted her to change her nationality but she never wanted to lose her Philippine citizenship. He also wanted to immediately have children, while my daughter wanted to focus on her profession first. Eventually, they ended up separating.

My daughter is thinking of coming back to the Philippines to pursue her profession. She wants to know if she is already considered “single” here considering that her husband has already divorced her in Japan, or will it still be necessary for her to file anything in court, like annulment of marriage? Please advise me on this matter.

Dear Bert,
While we do not have any divorce law, a decree of divorce that has been validly obtained abroad by a foreigner may be recognized in our jurisdiction. This is clear from the provisions of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states, “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.”

It, however, bears stressing that the effects of the divorce decree are not automatic insofar as the Filipino spouse is concerned. A petition for recognition of foreign judgment (to wit, decree of divorce) must first be filed and be successfully granted by the proper court in order for the Filipino spouse to be considered completely released from the marital ties that bound them to their foreign-spouse. As explained by the Supreme Court, through Associate Justice Antonio Carpio: “x x x A foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage affects the civil status, condition and legal capacity of its parties. However, the effect of a foreign judgment is not automatic. To extend the effect of a foreign judgment in the Philippines, Philippine courts must determine if the foreign judgment is consistent with domestic public policy and other mandatory laws. x x x” (Fujiki vs. Marinay et al., G.R. No. 196049, June 26, 2013).

In the situation of your daughter, she may opt to file a petition for the recognition of foreign decree of divorce, instead of filing a petition for the annulment of her marriage, given that her Japanese husband has already secured a divorce decree in Japan. It will be vital for your daughter to establish both the divorce decree and the governing national law of her alien spouse as our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgment. These need to be alleged and proven in consonance with our laws on evidence (Ando vs. Department of Foreign Affairs, G.R. No. 195432, August 27, 2014, Ponente, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, citing Garcia vs. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, October 2, 2001 and Corpuz v. Sta. Tomas, G.R. No. 186571, 11 August 2010). To reiterate, this remedy should be pursued in order for her civil status to revert to “single,” as well as for her to be able to fully exercise all the rights flowing from the divorce decree.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net.


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