Recognition of Foreign Divorce in the Philippines

Recognition of Foreign DivorceA relevant number of Filipinos are married to foreigners. A large number of them likewise reside and start family life abroad with their foreign spouse.  Inevitably, some of these Filipino-foreigner marriages end up in divorce.

With the exception of the Philippines and the Vatican City, all states in the world support divorce.  Because divorce is a world-known concept, foreigners are quick to conclude that a divorce from one part of the world is acceptable and instantly recognizable elsewhere.

Filipinos are of the misconception that the divorce granted to them abroad is automatically recognized in the Philippines, and that it will enable them to remarry anytime after the divorce is decreed.   Contrary to this, Philippine laws require a separate procedure before a foreign divorce decree granted to a Filipino is recognized as valid.  That separate procedure is known as Judicial Recognition of a Foreign Divorce.

The remedy of Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce is made available to Filipinos whose marriage had been dissolved by divorce abroad.  This is afforded to Philippine citizens to resolve an absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married in paper while the foreign spouse is divorced and able to remarry.

To have one’s foreign divorce recognized, a petition must be submitted before the proper court in the Philippines, where the following shall be proved: That the court or office had the jurisdiction or authority to hear and decide the divorce case or petition; That the partied received proper notice and were afforded the opportunity to contest the divorce; That the decree of divorce has reached finality.

Apparently, the law also requires proof showing that it was the foreign party who initiated the divorce proceedings against the Filipino spouse.  This poses a problem in situations where the country of divorce allows mutual consent or uncontested divorce.  In such form of divorce, husband and wife merely need to come into agreement to sever their marital relationship. No ground for divorce needs to be proved before the divorce is decreed.

The above is subject to different opinions.  Some claim that a mutual agreement or uncontested divorce should not be recognized in the Philippine since there is no means to prove who among the spouses initiated the divorce.  Others are of the interpretation that mere proposal, statement or initiative of the foreign spouse to start the divorce is enough to satisfy the requirement and thus, a mutual consent or uncontested divorce from abroad can be recognized in the Philippines.

To know more about this topic, please email or call Atty. Joyce Domingo at +632-8231090 or +639175220680.