Spouse’s address unknown? File marriage annulment case anyway

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I wish to have my marriage annuled. I was told that I need to secure the address of my wife in order to file the case. I’ve lost contact with my wife when we separated, so I do not know where she is or where she lives. Can I really not file a complaint for annulment if I don’t have the address of my wife?

Dear Ax,
I wish to clarify that the purpose of securing the address of a respondent or defendant is to allow the court to serve summons on him in order to inform him of the charges filed against him, and to give him an opportunity to explain his side. Such right to be afforded an opportunity to be heard is enshrined under the due process clause of our Constitution. It cannot be simply lightly taken for its violation will entail dire consequences.

As a result, service of summons is generally required in civil cases for the court to acquire jurisdiction over the defendant. Such service will empower the court to render a decision on a particular case, and bind the defendant to its judgment and other orders. A summons is generally served either by personally handing the summons to the defendant in person, or by simply tendering it to him, if he refuses to receive it, or by leaving a copy of the summons at the defendant’s residence or at his office or regular place of business (Sections 6 & 7, Rule 14, Rules of Court). These two (2) usual modes of service of summons obviously require the plaintiff or complainant to provide the address of the defendant or at least his whereabouts so that the court’s process server will be able to deliver the summons.

It is likely that the advice you got to the effect that you need to secure the address of your wife in order to file an annulment case is grounded on the above-mentioned rules on service of summons. Such advice, however, is not accurate. There are other modes of service of summons.

For one, the summons may, with leave of court, be served by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in case the defendant is unknown, or if his whereabouts are unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent inquiry. (Sec. 14, Id.) Further, if the defendant is a non-resident who is not in the country, extraterritorial service of summons may be resorted to and which can be effected out of the Philippines either personally, by publication in a newspaper of general circulation and sending a copy of the summons and order of the court by registered mail to the last known address of the defendant, or in any other manner. (Sec. 15, Id.) Please note that extraterritorial service of summons is only available in actions affecting the personal status of the plaintiff, or relates to claims or interest in a property found within the Philippines, or the property of the defendant has been attached within the Philippines. (Ibid.)

Hence, even if you do not know the address of your wife, you may still file a petition for annulment of marriage. You may resort to other modes of service of summons such as by publication in a newspaper of general circulation following Section 14, Rule 14 of the Rules of Court. You should, however, show not only that the whereabouts of your wife is unknown, but that you also diligently looked for her, but your efforts proved futile. Additionally, if your wife is a non-resident who is not in the country, you can also resort to extraterritorial service of summons to comply with the requirement of due process considering that a petition of annulment is an action that affects the personal status of the plaintiff and therefore covered by the rule on extraterritorial service of summons.

We hope we were able to address your concern. 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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


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