On February 21, 2018, the House Committee on Population and Family Relations gave its thumbs up to the bill that will introduce divorce as a means to dissolve marriages in the Philippines. As of the moment, the only way you can get out of a dysfunctional marriage is through annulment, which costs a fortune and will seek to prove that your marriage is invalid. This means that if the court fails to find substantial grounds to prove that your union is null then your petition for annulment will not be granted and you remain married to your spouse. Divorce, on the other hand, will end a legal marriage and make both parties free to marry other people.
There are only two countries in the world that do not recognize divorce in its territories: the Philippines and the Vatican. Ours is a predominantly Christian nation and it is for this reason that the proposal to legalize divorce has always been shelved. In the Philippines, married couples may dissolve their union through an annulment petition that is both tedious and costly. Divorce seeks to address both issues.
To help us understand what’s inside the divorce bill, we summarized five important key points in the law.
- Divorce only seeks to terminate a continuing dysfunction of a long broken marriage.
Since annulment does not recognize infidelity as grounds for separation, couples seem trapped in this situation until the parties decide to just take matters into their own hands – amicably go their separate ways and pursue relationships with other people. In the end, they remain married and all things related to their marriage (conjugal properties, child custody and support, etc.) continue to be part of their lives as husband and wife and parents to their children.
Divorce will help such couples obtain their legal rights to marry other people.
A dysfunctional marriage is not necessarily the result of one or both party’s infidelity. Some couples simply fall out of love and no longer wish to be part of the union. Again, these types of reasons for separation do not hold water in an annulment petition. Only divorce can make it possible for couples, who no longer love each other, to dissolve their marriage and find marital bliss elsewhere.
- Divorce will be a more affordable means for the common Pinoy to end a marriage.
Women who cannot afford the costs of an annulment are literally left with no choice but to remain married forever. These women could be physically, emotionally, psychologically, or economically abused by their husbands – or the other way around (wives abusing their husband’s rights and privileges). Divorce gives them the opportunity to seek freedom from abusive partners, even if they could not afford the costs of an annulment.
Indigent divorce applicants can enjoy free litigation fees and will be afforded with competent public lawyers to represent them in court.
- Divorce will not abolish legal separation and annulment.
Couples still have the option to go for either, even while divorce is already made available for them.
- The Cooling Off Period
Those who think that divorce is the fast and easy way out of a legal marriage are in for a surprise. Divorce applicants will be required to undergo a 6-month cooling off period as a means to try and reconcile the couple. This, however, is waived when the petition is filed due to domestic abuse or if staying in the marriage poses danger to the life of the spouse or any of his or her children.
- The divorce decree will include custody of children, protection of the children’s inheritance, liquidation of conjugal partnerships or gains or absolute community, and alimony for the innocent spouse.
Foremost in the bill’s agenda is, of course, the welfare of the children that will be involved in the couple’s separation. Each party’s right over custody of their children will also be taken up and finalized while the divorce application is being heard in court.
Visit us again tomorrow as we will be featuring the grounds for divorce and how these differ from the existing provisions under the Annulment and Legal Separation laws.