Philippine Laws on Divorce, Separation & Annulment

By Anna Assad

Philippine law doesn't allow divorces, however, it does allow for legal separation, annulment and marriage "voids" under the Family Code of the Philippines. Annulment, covered mainly by Article 45 of the laws, applies to a legitimate marriage that now has a valid ground to undo it, while a voided marriage is considered invalid from the beginning.

Legal Separation

Under Title II of Philippine family laws, a spouse can file for legal separation in court if the other spouse is sentenced to jail for more than five years; physically abuses her or a child in the household or attempts to marry another person. Legal separation is allowed if one spouse has a drug or alcohol problem or is homosexual. Adultery or aggressive attempts by one spouse to get the other spouse to change religions; adopt political views or prostitute herself or a child in the home, are also grounds for legal separation. If one spouse leaves the other spouse without having a reason held as valid by the court, the abandoned spouse can file for separation after a year has passed. The spouse must file within five years of the qualifying event, and the court can deny the petition for various reasons, including evidence the filing spouse consented to the qualifying event.

Annulment

Article 45 of Philippine family law establishes the allowable grounds for annulment. A marriage can be annulled if one spouse wasn't mentally sound at the time of the marriage or was forced into it, unless she continued living as husband and wife after regaining mental competence or the threat of force disappeared. Fraud on behalf of either spouse when agreeing to marry is grounds for annulment, as well as the discovery of an incurable sexually transmitted disease or permanent impotence. If either spouse was over 18, but not yet 21, and got married without parental consent, the marriage can be annulled if the parties no longer lived together as husband and wife once the spouse turned 21.

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Voided Marriage

Articles 35 to 38 set the conditions that void an existing marriage. All marriages between persons under 18 are automatically voided by law, as well as a marriage performed by an unlicensed official. However, if at least one of spouses believed the official had authority, the marriage is still valid. Polygamous, bigamous and incestuous marriages are invalid. If one spouse was incompetent at the time of the marriage but his condition didn't present itself until after the ceremony, the marriage might be voided on those grounds under Article 36.

Considerations

According to Article 46, fraud that can lead to annulment includes a spouse who hid a drug problem, an alcohol addiction, homosexuality or a sexually transmitted disease. Deception involving chastity, money, station in life or moral character isn't grounds for annulment under fraud. If a person remarried because she believed her prior spouse was dead, the bigamy void might not apply, and the second marriage could be upheld. The prior spouse must be absent for at least four years for the second marriage to be valid, but only two years is needed if there's reason to believe he's dead, such as an accident. To preserve the marriage if the missing spouse reappears, the remarried spouse must also have had the first marriage declared annulled or voided in court during the prior spouse's absence. Article 213 places a custody stipulation on legal separation cases. Unless the mother is an unfit parent, she receives custody if the child is under 7. Otherwise, the innocent spouse, or the spouse who filed for separation, gets custody, providing she is fit.

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