Marriages between Filipinos and foreigners have increased greatly in the recent years. Reasons for this include the escalation in the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), as well as the influx of foreign presence in the Philippines.
For lawyers in Family Law practice, it is not unusual to hear Filipinos’ misconceptions on being married and for getting divorces abroad. The most common misconception is that a Filipino may get a divorce if he is married abroad or he is married to a foreigner.
Until present, Philippine law still does not support divorce. It does not afford Filipinos the right to file for a divorce, whether they are in the country or living abroad, if they are married to Filipinos or to foreigners, or if they celebrated their marriage in the Philippines or in another country. The legal basis is Art. 15 of the New Civil Code, which reads:
Art. 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.
As above stated, Filipinos are bound by their national law wherever they may go. Until they are naturalized as citizens of another country, Philippine laws shall have control over issues related to Filipinos’ family rights and duties, together with the determination of their condition and legal capacity to enter into contracts and civil relations, including marriages. The fact of marriage to a foreigner or the celebration of the marriage in another country cannot alter the rule.
Filipinos residing abroad for long periods are quick on getting divorces in their country of residence. They are encouraged that since they have fulfilled the residency requirement in the country of divorce, the same is automatically valid and recognized in the Philippines. It is not. A separate case must be brought before the proper courts in the Philippines before the country can recognize the foreign divorce.
While the Philippines awaits the passing of a divorce law, its present laws afford its citizens with other legal remedies for their marital woes, namely Declaration of Nullity of Marriage if the marriage is void ab initio, or Annulment of Marriage if the marriage is voidable.