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Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree in the Philippines

It is known to many that the Philippines is one of the two remaining states in the world, the other one being the city-state of Vatican, that has yet to enact a divorce law. There is no divorce in the Philippines. Such matter has been a longstanding subject of debate as it has led to instances where Filipinos are left alone in a marriage because the national laws of their foreign partners permit such severance of their matrimonial ties effective with regard to the latter only.


As an alternative, foreign divorce decrees may take effect in the Philippines pursuant to Article 26 of the Family Code, which provides:


All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 3637 and 38. (17a)


Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.


With the abovementioned provision, decrees of foreign divorce may be judicially enforced in the Philippines. It has even expanded its scope to instances where it is the Filipino spouse who endeavors to obtain a divorce decree abroad. Article 26 and pertinent provisions under the Rules of Court are manifestations of the principle of comity of nations in private international law where “one sovereign nation voluntarily adopts or enforces the laws of another sovereign nation out of deference, mutuality, and respect.”


Such means of recognizing a foreign divorce decree, however, is not without limitations. A full blown judicial action is to be instituted locally with strict documentary requirements to be complied with. Further, the variations of nationalities of the former spouses in the marriage also have to be taken into consideration for a judicial recognition to fully take effect.


The processes, requirements, parties, and limitations as to nationalities surrounding a judicial recognition of foreign divorce will be discussed briefly below.


A. What is a Foreign Divorce Decree?


A foreign divorce decree is a final judgment made by a foreign tribunal in accordance with their divorce laws declaring an end to a marriage.


B. Who may Avail of a Foreign Divorce Decree?


Simply stated, for a foreign divorce decree to be judicially recognized in the Philippines, one of the two parties to the marriage should be a foreign citizen.


To nuance that statement, however, one valid question to raise is if two Filipinos got married in the Philippines but migrated to a foreign state and became citizens of such foreign state and later on obtained a divorce decree there, can such divorce decree be judicially recognized if one of the spouses return to the Philippines?


The case of Republic v. Orbecido (G.R. No. 154380, 05 Oct. 2005) elucidates that the reckoning point of determination of the validity of the foreign divorce decree and its subsequent judicial recognition is not the celebration of the marriage to be dissolved but rather, the time when divorce was sought.


Thus, to simplify, at the point of obtaining a divorce decree, the requirement of “at least one of the spouses is an alien” should be met.


Further, jurisprudence has also expanded Article 26 of the Civil Code by permitting the Filipino spouse to obtain a divorce decree if the foreign law allows him or her to do so. The divorce decree that will flow out of such proceeding shall likewise be recognized in a separate judicial recognition proceeding to be done later on. This is established in the case of In Re: Petition for Judicial Recognition of Divorce Between Minuro Takahashi and Juliet Rendora Moraña (G.R. No. 227605, 05 Dec. 2019).


Hence, as long as one of the spouses is an alien at the point of obtaining the divorce decree, such divorce decree shall be recognized in the Philippines regardless of who instituted the proceedings.


C. Who may File a Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce in the Philippines?


A petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce in the Philippines may be instituted by a Filipino under Art. 26 of the Family Code before a Family Court. Note, however, that courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments; hence, these should be proven as a fact, i.e. a copy of the laws of the foreign state on divorce must be presented with appended translations to English or Filipino (if needed) along with a copy of the decree itself. This has been established in the case of Corpuz v. Sta. Tomas (G.R. No. 186571, 11 Aug. 2010).


Further, while there is nothing written in our current laws or in settled conflict of laws principles proscribing an alien from obtaining such judicial recognition in the Philippines, it defies logic if he or she were to do so because the divorce decree reverted his or her civil status already as the marriage has ended.


D. How are Foreign Divorce Decrees Judicially Recognized in the Philippines?


1. Requirements


Some of the basic requirements for a Petition for Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce in the Philippines are as follows:


a. Philippine Marriage Certificate if the marriage was in the Philippines or an Official Marriage Certificate from the foreign country if the marriage was abroad;

b. Report of Marriage of a Filipino Married Abroad (if one was filed with the Department of Foreign Affairs);

c. Official copies of your Foreign Divorce documents;

d. Certified Copy of the foreign country’s Divorce Law;

e. Proof of citizenship; and

f. Proof of residence.


Note that foreign documents and translations of these foreign documents to English have to be authenticated by an apostille certificate. Further, keep in mind that this list is not a final list of requirements, as sub-requirements might be needed depending on the facts of the case and the specific state where the divorce decree was obtained.


2. Venue


A Petition for a Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce in the Philippines shall be filed before the Regional Trial Court in the province where the corresponding civil registry to be corrected is located in accordance with Rule 108 of the Rules of Court.


The Court will also order the Petition to be published in a random newspaper of general circulation once a week for three weeks.


The entire process of the Petition is akin to a normal court proceeding where witnesses are to be presented and judicial affidavits and other court documents are to be prepared.


Ultimately, at the end of the proceedings, the effect of such Judicial Recognition is the recording of the Certificate of Finality with the pertinent Local Civil Registrar correcting the civil status of the Filipino concerned.


It is truly interesting to see the tangibility of the interplay of laws across nations by virtue of the principle of comity. However, while substantive laws of foreign nations are adopted locally, procedural laws are still to be observed.


In order to successfully effectuate a foreign divorce decree, it is best that for the Filipino party to be assisted by a qualified family law attorney.


*Arceo Balmoja and Irasusta Law Firm is a family law office in Bulacan that serves clients anywhere in the Philippines. Its family lawyers in Pulilan have an extensive experience in facilitating a Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree in Bulacan. Our Bulacan divorce lawyers have successfully advised and represented clients in both annulment and recognition of foreign divorce matters. Should you wish to learn more about Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree in Bulacan, you may contact us at info@abilawbulacan.com to get in touch with any of our family law attorneys in Pulilan.

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