Legal Separation In The Philippines

Legal Separation or relative divorce is a judicial decree allowing married couples from living separately from bed and board.

Compared to Declaration of Nullity of Marriage and Annulment of Marriage, not too many petitions for legal separation are filed in court.  This is probably because legal separation does not have the effect of severing the marital bond and thus, none of the parties may enter into another marriage.

There are several grounds on which a petition for legal separation may be filed on.  These include:

  1. Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;

  2. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;

  3. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;

  4. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned;

  5. Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent;

  6. Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondents;

  7. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad;

  8. Sexual infidelity or perversion;

  9. Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner; or

  10. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

A petition for legal separation is not heard immediately after it is filed. A mandatory six-month cooling-off period is set by the court to give the parties enough time to contemplate on a possible reconciliation.

Not all petitions for legal separation are granted by the courts.  The reasons for the denial vary from failure to prove the attendance of any of the above-mentioned grounds, as well as any of the following:

  1. Where the aggrieved party has condoned the offense or act complained of;

  2. Where the aggrieved party has consented to the commission of the offense or act complained of;

  3. Where there is connivance between the parties in the commission of the offense or act constituting the ground for legal separation;

  4. Where both parties have given ground for legal separation;

  5. Where there is collusion between the parties to obtain the decree of legal separation; or

  6. Where the action is barred by prescription;

  7. Death of one of the parties; and

  8. Reconciliation of the parties.

On the other hand, a petition for legal separation which is granted by the courts shall have the following effects:

  1. The spouses shall be entitled to live separately from each other even if the marriage bond is not severed;

  2. The absolute community or conjugal partnership shall be dissolved and liquidated;

  3. The custody of the minor children shall be awarded to the innocent spouse, subject to exceptions like the tender-age rule or the choice of a child above seven years;

  4. The offending spouse shall be disqualified from inheriting from the innocent spouse by intestate succession, and the provisions in favor of the offending spouse made in a will of the innocent spouse shall be revoked by operation of law;

  5. The offending spouse shall have no right to any share in the net profits of the absolute community or the conjugal partnership;

  6. The innocent spouse may revoke the donations made by him in favor of the offending spouse, as well as the designation of the latter as beneficiary in any insurance policy, even if the designation be irrevocable.

As an additional effect, the wife cannot petition to be allowed to use her maiden surname even after legal separation is granted.

Is There Divorce In The Philippines?

There is no divorce in the Philippines.  With the recent ratification of divorce in Malta, the Philippines and the Vatican City remain as the only states in the world which do not support divorce.  The influence of the church is seen as reason for the continued ban on divorce in the Philippines.  The country is predominantly Christian, with 80% of them Roman Catholics.

Until there is divorce in the country, Filipinos are confined to using other remedies to sever their marriages.  Among those allowed are Declaration of Nullity of Marriage and Annulment of Marriage.

Around the globe, termination of an existing marriage is the purpose of divorce.  The purpose is different with regard to Declaration of Nullity and Annulment of Marriage.

In Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, the purpose is to have the marriage declared non-existent from the start as if no marriage took place.  The grounds used for Declaration of Nullity involve the absence of any essential or formal requisite of marriage.

Annulment of marriage is resorted to in case there is a defect in any of the essential requisites of marriage.  Since the defects are susceptible of ratification, the marriage is considered to be valid until it is declared annulled by the courts.

Another remedy available in the Philippines is legal separation, although it is seldom resorted to by couples who have troubled marriages.  This is because legal separation does not actually dissolve the marriage but only allows the couple to be separate from bed and board.  Being so, each of the parties are not allowed to remarry after they are granted a separation decree.