I am a Filipino who is currently in California, and my stay here is illegal. In order to obtain a certificate of residency to legalize my stay, I decided to marry an American, and divorced my Filipina wife by sending her the divorce papers in the Philippines. I have not yet obtained my American citizenship, but in case this would be granted, since I am already in love with my American wife, may I know if the divorce I filed is already sufficient to sever my marital ties with my Filipina wife?
Please be informed that our civil law adheres to the “nationality rule” on the matter of status or legal capacity of a person. Article 15 of the New Civil Code provides:
“Article 15. 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.”
You are admittedly a Filipino living abroad, thus, Philippine laws apply to you with respect to your family rights, duties and civil status.
At the time you filed the pertinent “divorce papers” that you had your wife signed in the Philippines, you are clearly a Filipino, hence, these papers have no legal effect on your marital status considering the civil and marital laws in the Philippines.
The only way that you can sever your marital ties with your Filipina wife is to file the appropriate petition for nullity or annulment of marriage, with a ground that must be proven in the Regional Trial Court of the place where you have registered your union in the Philippines.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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