I married a foreigner in the USA a couple of years ago. Our marriage was registered there, but not here. Not long after that, we separated and I returned to the Philippines. Now, I found a new love, and we are planning to get married. Will my previous marriage in the USA be a legal obstacle to my upcoming marriage?
The answer to your query depends on whether your previous marriage in the United States of America (USA) is considered valid here in our country. If it is, then you cannot marry again unless your previous marriage is first dissolved or terminated. If not, then you may still legally marry.
The fact that your marriage was not registered here is inconsequential. Registration does not affect the validity or invalidity of a marriage. It is merely done to record an event affecting civil status of persons. It only serves as evidence of the act or occurrence. As our Supreme Court held in one case “the mere fact that no record of the marriage exists does not invalidate the marriage, as long as in the celebration thereof, all requisites for its validity are present” (People vs. Borromeo, 133 SCRA 106).
In determining the validity of your marriage abroad, we have to apply Article 26 of the Family Code to your case. It provides: “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. xxx” The quoted article clearly states that even marriages performed outside the Philippines can be held valid here in our country if it complies with two conditions, to wit: compliance with the laws of the state where the marriage was celebrated, and the marriage is not one of the prohibited marriages.
The first condition refers to observance of the requirements set by the laws of the state where the ceremony occurs, which means that the marriage must be held valid in the state where it was celebrated. The validity of such marriage abroad would then be extended in our country. This is what is legally referred to as the principle of lex loci celebrationis, which roughly translates to law of the land where the marriage was celebrated, where legal effect is given to the marriage laws of a foreign state by another state by recognizing its validity, though it may not completely comply with its local laws.
The second condition is based on public policy consideration. There are marriages that our country cannot recognize as valid, even if the country where the marriage occurs allows it, because they run contrary to State principles and policies. These are: marriage of a person below eighteen (18) years of age, bigamous or polygamous marriages, mistake on the identity of the other party, subsequent marriages celebrated without termination, liquidation and distribution of a previous marriage, psychological incapacity, incestuous marriages, and void marriages for reason of public policy enumerated in Article 38 of the Family Code.
Thus, if your marriage in the USA complies with the requirements set by the American law, ergo valid in the USA, and it is not one of the prohibited marriages, then your marriage is also valid here in the Philippines. Consequently, it will be a legal impediment for you to marry again. If not, then you may freely marry again.
We hope the foregoing opinion sufficiently addressed your concerns. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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