Legal Separation In The Philippines

legal-separation-adviceSince the Philippines does not allow for dissolution of a valid marriage, it gives a solution to its citizens whose marriages are no longer capable of providing a harmonious atmosphere to the husband, the wife and their children – Legal Separation.

The Family Code lays down ten (10) grounds for a petition for legal separation. If these grounds are to be summed up, it can be seen that they all have something in common: they may be brought about by violence, whether physical, emotional or psychological, employed by one of the spouses against the other, or to their children, or they may either be due to the wrongful conduct and behavior of the other spouse.

For instance, one very common ground for legal separation is repeated physical violence against the other spouse, or against their common children, or against the child of the violent spouse. As can be seen, neither declaration of nullity of marriage nor divorce makes use of this ground as a basis for filing the petition. That is because the repeated physical violence that is contemplated in legal separation usually occurs or begins after a valid marriage has been celebrated. This goes the same for the other grounds for legal separation.

Unlike in declaration of nullity of marriage, legal separation does not sever the marital ties between the spouses. It just legally allows for the spouses to be physically separated from one another so as to give them time and space apart, in order to prevent them from causing more damage to the other.

This is the ultimate goal of legal separation – to simply keep the spouses away from each other to stop them from further hurting each other. Thus, still helping them preserve their vows to one another. This is perhaps the reason why legal separation remains to be one effective remedy in mending a broken marriage.

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.