Philippine laws do not provide for absolute divorce, and hence, the courts cannot grant the same.1 However, in case of a mixed marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreign citizen, the Family Code of the Philippines allows the estranged Filipino spouse to remarry in case the divorce is “validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.”2
The following elements must concur in order for said law to apply:
- There is a valid marriage celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner;3 and
- A valid divorce is obtained abroad, capacitating the parties to remarry, regardless of who between the spouses initiated the divorce proceedings.4
Thus, pursuant to Republic v. Manalo, foreign divorce decrees obtained to nullify marriages between a Filipino and an alien citizen may already be recognized in Philippine jurisdiction, regardless of who between the spouses initiated the divorce; provided, that the party petitioning for the recognition of such foreign divorce decree- presumably the Filipino citizen- must prove the divorce as a fact and demonstrate its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.
As a matter of procedure, a case must be filed in court to secure a judgment recognizing the foreign divorce between a Filipino and a foreigner. In terms of evidence, both the foreign divorce decree or judgment and the foreign divorce law need to be proven during the trial. Following a favorable judgment, the divorce would be recorded in the civil registry and the estranged Filipino spouse would be deemed allowed to remarry.
The requirement for recognition of foreign divorce is simply that at least one of the spouses was a non-Filipino at the time of the divorce. This follows from the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines to wit:
“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 likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”
Q: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FILE A PETITION FOR RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN DIVORCE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
There are a number of reasons why it is important to file a petition for recognition of foreign divorce in the Philippines, to wit:
- Unless the foreign divorce is judicially recognized, the divorce decree will not be registered with the Civil Registrar and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); consequently, a Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) will not be issued should a divorced Filipino plan to remarry;
- Without a judicial recognition of the foreign divorce, the previous marriage is deemed to subsist; contracting another marriage in the Philippines may constitute the crime of bigamy; and
- If the foreign divorce decree is not judicially recognized in the Philippines, the divorced spouse may still exercise his or her rights to the community or conjugal property as an heir in case of the death of the other spouse.
Q: HOW ARE FOREIGN DIVORCE DECREES JUDICIALLY RECOGNIZED IN THE PHILIPPINES?
A petition for a judicial recognition of a foreign divorce in the Philippines shall be filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in the city or province where the corresponding civil registry to be corrected is located. If the marriage is celebrated abroad, the petition shall be filed before the RTC which has jurisdiction over the place of residence of the petitioner.
The following are the documents required to be attached to the petition. For documents issued or made abroad, they must either be (a) an official publication of such document or (b) a copy attested by the officer having the legal custody of the document, or by his deputy. Additionally, there must be an accompanying certificate that such officer has the custody, which may be issued by the embassy or consular office of the Philippines and authenticated by the seal of its office.5 Any foreign document attached to the petition needs to be apostilled by the competent authority or authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in the foreign country.
Proof of Marriage
The petitioner needs to present to the court a certified true copy of the marriage certificate registered in the Philippines issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
If the marriage was celebrated abroad, the official marriage certificate or record from the foreign country shall be presented. If a copy of the marriage certificate or record was filed with the Philippine Consulate, a copy of the Report of Marriage of a Filipino Married Abroad shall also be presented.
Proof of Divorce
The petitioner needs to present to the court a certified copy of the divorce decree, order, or decision.
The petitioner must present to the Court the official copies of his or her foreign divorce documents such as the divorce decree which should be duly translated to English if it was written in a foreign language.
Countries have different laws and policies when it comes to divorce. Thus, documents used or issued may also be different. An example is the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Republic v. Kikuchi, 6 where it was established that Mayors in Japan are authorized to accept divorce. The Supreme Court in this case considered the duly authenticated Certificate of Acceptance issued by City Mayor of Sakado City as sufficient evidence of divorce obtained in Japan.
Proof of Law on Divorce Abroad
The foreign law capacitating the foreign spouse to remarry must be proven as a fact during trial and in accordance with the Rules of Court.
The petitioner must present to the Court a certified copy of the specific law on divorce in the country where it was obtained. It must be apostilled or authenticated by the Philippine Consulate and must come with an official translation to the English language if written in a foreign language. Said divorce law must indicate that parties to the divorce can remarry.
OCA Circular No. 157-2022 issued on 23 June 2022, announced that foreign divorce laws that have been officially translated into English language may be obtained on the Supreme Court website, and thus, petitioners need not prove it during the trial, to wit:
“…the Family Courts are advised to take judicial notice of this compilation of the laws of foreign countries on marriage and divorce in the resolution of cases requiring the presentation of the laws of foreign countries on marriage and divorce.”
However, OCA Circular No. 157-2022-A issued on 7 July 2022 supersedes the said Circular. It states the following:
“To address this matter, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), upon request of the OCA, furnished the OCA with a compilation of several foreign laws on marriage and divorce, for reference and use of the judiciary in resolving petitions for recognition and enforcement of foreign decree of divorce, subject to prevailing jurisprudence and/or applicable Court issuances related thereto.”
Simply put, the trial court cannot take judicial notice of a foreign divorce law posted on the Supreme Court website. In Arreza v. Toyo,7 the prevailing jurisprudence, states that:
“Philippine courts do not take judicial notice of foreign judgments and laws. They must be proven as fact under our rules on evidence. A divorce decree obtained abroad is deemed a foreign judgment, hence the indispensable need to have it pleaded and proved before its legal effects may be extended to the Filipino spouse.”
Proofs of Citizenship and Residence of the Parties (the spouses), and the Children, if any.
In order to prove the citizenship of the parties (the spouses), and the children if any, the petitioner needs to present to the court their birth certificates and/or passports.
It must be established that one of the parties is an alien or a foreigner at the time of the divorce for Article 26 of the Family Code to apply.
After filing the petition, the RTC branch where the case is raffled will order that the substance of the petition be published in a random newspaper of general circulation in the city or province once a week for three (3) weeks.
After trial and after the court renders its decision granting the petition, the decision shall be registered before the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) where the marriage was recorded, the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) of Manila if marriage was celebrated and registered overseas, and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
If you have questions on this, feel free to contact our team.
Prepared by Jermile Salor.
- Garcia v. Recio, 366 SCRA 437 (2001).
- Art. 26 (2), Family Code of the Philippines.
- Republic v. Orbecido III, 472 SCRA 114 (2005).
- Republic v. Manalo, 862 SCRA 580 (2018).
- Rules of Court, Rule 132, Sec. 24.
- Republic v. Kikuchi, G.R. 243646, 22 June 2022.
- Arreza v. Toyo, G.R. No. 213198, 1 July 2019.