I am an overseas Filipino worker who was previously married to an African in his home country. We got a divorce there and he gave me the divorce papers since he said he wanted me out of his life. Now I’m back in the Philippines and I met someone who I plan to marry.
However, I was told that I still cannot re-marry and that I have to file my divorce papers in the court. I want to know the process for this and what I need to do, so I can eventually marry again.
Considering that you were married to a foreign spouse who afterwards divorced you abroad, what you need to do is to file a petition for recognition of foreign judgment. The purpose of this petition is for Philippine courts to confirm the validity and recognize your foreign divorce decree so that it will have an effect here in our country.
This is important because while Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines recognizes that a Filipino married to a foreigner can be married again once a divorce is obtained abroad by the foreign spouse, mere acquisition of a divorce decree will not automatically enable the Filipino spouse to be married again. A foreign divorce, being in the nature of a foreign judgment, requires verification and approval from our courts for it to be recognized in our country. The Supreme Court explained this requirement in one of its rulings, which stated that:
“Before a foreign judgment is given presumptive evidentiary value, the document must first be presented and admitted in evidence. A divorce obtained abroad is proven by the divorce decree itself. Indeed the best evidence of a judgment is the judgment itself. The decree purports to be a written act or record of an act of an official body or tribunal of a foreign country.
Under Sections 24 and 25 of Rule 132, on the other hand, a writing or document may be proven as a public or official record of a foreign country by either (1) an official publication or (2) a copy thereof attested by the officer having legal custody of the document. If the record is not kept in the Philippines, such copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office.
It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. Like any other facts, they must be alleged and proved. Australian marital laws are not among those matters that judges are supposed to know by reason of their judicial function. The power of judicial notice must be exercised with caution, and every reasonable doubt upon the subject should be resolved in the negative.” (Garcia vs. Recio, G.R. No. 138322, October 2, 2001)
Since it is required that the foreign divorce decree be proven in Philippine court to be authentic and obtained in accordance with the laws of the country where it was decreed, it is necessary that the relevant foreign documents undergo consular authentication for verification at the Philippine Embassy where the foreign documents originated.
Once the Philippine court confirms the foreign divorce decree, its decision indicating that it formally recognizes and accepts your foreign divorce decree will be registered before the Office of the Local Civil Registrar that will eventually result in a change of the marital status from married to single. It is only after undergoing this process that you will be able to make your foreign divorce effective here in the Philippines and as a consequence enable you to legally remarry.
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