Filipinos can benefit from foreign divorce decrees

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My friend married her foreign boyfriend in 2006 at the City Hall of Makati. Her husband was out of the Philippines most of the time because of his business. She learned in 2010 that her husband secured a divorce decree abroad and has already contracted another marriage.

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Just last year, she met another man but she is hesitant to pursue a relationship with him because it may cause legal predicaments to her. Another friend of ours told her that she can re-marry after filing a petition in court and having the divorce decree annotated in her marriage certificate. Should she file for the nullity of her marriage in court and then petition for the divorce decree to be annotated in her marriage certificate? If so, where should she file it? Any advice will be appreciated. Thank you and more power.
SM

Dear SM,
It is well-settled that there is no divorce law here in the Philippines. Hence, a Philippine citizen may not secure a divorce decree whether here or abroad. This is pursuant to Article 15 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines which provides that: “Laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.”

Nevertheless, a Philippine citizen may benefit from a divorce decree if the same is validly secured by his or her foreign spouse. Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines states that: “[W]here 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.”

Accordingly, your friend may benefit from the divorce decree that was secured by her foreign husband abroad as long as the latter is permitted, under his national law, to obtain divorce and that said decree was granted pursuant to the law of the country where it was rendered. But it will be essential for her to file a petition before our courts in order for her to exercise any and all rights flowing from said decree as the effects thereof, insofar as she is concerned, is not automatic. A petition for recognition of foreign decree of divorce is the more appropriate remedy to take, as well as the cancellation of the entry of her marriage and the registration of the said decree before the proper civil registry. It is not necessary for her to file two separate petitions. She may opt to file the petition for recognition of the foreign divorce decree under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. According to the Supreme Court:“[t]his ruling should not be construed as requiring two separate proceedings for the registration of a foreign divorce decree in the civil registry – one for recognition of the foreign decree and another specifically for cancellation of the entry under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court. The recognition of the foreign divorce decree may be made in a Rule 108 proceeding itself, as the object of special proceedings (such as that in Rule 108 of the Rules of Court) is precisely to establish the status or right of a party or a particular fact. Moreover, Rule 108 of the Rules of Court can serve as the appropriate adversarial proceeding41 by which the applicability of the foreign judgment can be measured and tested in terms of jurisdictional infirmities, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact”(Corpuz vs. Tirol Sto. Tomas, G.R. No. 186571, August 11, 2010).The said petition must be filed before the Regional Trial Court of Makati City as it is the corresponding civil registry where her marriage transpired and registered. (Section 1, Rule 108, Rules of Court)

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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