I married a foreigner but retained my Filipino citizenship. Due to our differences, we obtained absolute divorce abroad. May I have it recognized in our country? What are the requirements?
As a rule, our laws do not allow divorce. However, an exception is provided in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. It states that:
“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 marry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”
It is clear from that above provision that our State will only recognize the divorce if it is the alien spouse who filed or initiated the absolute divorce. An absolute divorce initiated by the Filipino spouse does not fall within the exception. Hence, it will not be recognized in our country for the reason that it is against public policy (Cang vs. Court of Appeals, 293 SCRA 128).
Note, however, that the bar does not apply to a former Filipino citizen who has been naturalized in a foreign country. He/she may initiate a divorce. In such a situation, the Supreme Court ruled that the reckoning point is NOT the citizenship of the parties at the time of marriage, but their citizenship at the time the divorce is obtained (Republic vs. Orbecido, G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005). Hence, such case will be viewed as a divorce between two foreign citizens which will be governed by the laws of their respective nationalities.
Applying the foregoing to your case, you failed to mention who initiated the divorce. Nonetheless, if it is you who initiated the divorce, then it will not be recognized in our country. On the contrary, if it is your foreigner spouse who initiated the divorce, then it can be recognized in our country. In such a case, you have to initiate a proceeding in court for recognition of the foreign divorce.
Please note that our courts are not duty bound to recognize foreign divorce decree or judgment. Our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. This means that the foreign judgment and its authenticity must be proven as facts under our rules on evidence. In this regard, Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court requires as proof of a public record or document, presentation of an official publication of the document or a copy attested by the officer having legal custody of the documents. If the copies of official records are not kept in the Philippines, the Rules of Court further requires that:
1) it be accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper Philippine diplomatic or consular officer stationed in the country where the record is kept; and,
2) authenticated by the seal of his office.
Bear in mind also, that there are two things you have to prove: the foreign divorce decree itself, and the foreign law allowing the divorce. Evidence on both must be presented so that the petition for recognition of the foreign divorce decree or judgment may be granted (Corpuz vs. Sto. Tomas, G.R. No. 186571, August 11, 2010).
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that the above legal opinion is solely based on our appreciation of the problem that you have presented. The opinion may vary when other facts are stated.
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