An expert’s review of the Philippine divorce bill illuminates its possible effects on individuals, families, and society. The attorney outlines the bill’s pros and cons and how it may influence divorce, child custody, alimony, and other issues. Additionally, the lawyer examines how the measure may affect Philippine social norms and values.
Senate committees recently passed a combined divorce bill. This may be the closest the Philippines has come to a general divorce legislation since the 1988 Family Code removed it. However, the bill may not pass.
A bill becomes law when both the Senate and House of Representatives approve it. Three readings on successive days on each chamber’s floor are required.
The House approved a divorce law on third reading before the last election. At the same time, the Senate’s similar bill died in committee, forcing minority advocates to reintroduce it this term.
Senator Risa Hontiveros’ Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality supported the Senate measure after its first reading.
In the absence of a divorce law, many spouses who want to end their marriage have had to file cases for annulment or nullity of marriage allowed under the Family Code. Such petitions can go on for years without assurance of being granted because of the frankly subjective nature of psychological incapacity, the most common ground that such cases claim as basis for dissolution of marriage.
The various legislative versions share clauses that show how a divorce would be sought if it passes.
The Lower House and Senate legislation require a court case for divorce. In the city or province where one spouse lives, a divorce petition should be filed with the Regional Trial Court.
The divorce bills follow our Rules of Court for legal separation or annulment of marriage, including a cooling off period between submitting the petition and starting trial. This cooling off period was included by lawmakers to discourage hasty divorce choices.
The Senate bill allows divorce on more grounds than the Family Code allows annulment or legal separation.
Divorce grounds need not have existed at the time of the marriage, unlike annulment or nullity applications. They can exist later. The Senate divorce measure uses Family Code grounds for legal separation to terminate the marriage.
New grounds are included by the Senate divorce bill. Rape before or after marriage, extended separation, and irreconcilable differences are examples. A lawful foreign divorce is likewise grounds for divorce in the Philippines. Finally, the proposed law allows divorce based on a minister or priest’s religious annulment or dissolution.
Thus, a divorce petitioner would file with the Family Court and prove through testimony and documents that any of the grounds warrant divorce.
The proposed law further states that a court divorce ruling is final and executable for remarriage. This means that divorced spouses are single and can instantly remarry, even if one appeals the support, child custody, and property partition rulings.
How will a divorce law affect pending legal separation or nullity cases?
Since there is no divorce law, many spouses have had to seek for annulment or nullity under the Family Code. Due to the subjective character of psychological incapacity, the most prevalent ground for divorce, such applications can take years to be granted.
The divorce bill authors considered this. Legal separation, annulment, and nullity cases pending at the time of its passage shall be converted to divorce proceedings. This will save parties that have been in court for years from refiling, retrying, and representing evidence. This also addresses opposing senators’ claim that annulments should be cheaper and easier instead of divorce laws. The divorce law would make annulment cases easier. Rappler.com
Francesco C. Britanico practices family and corporate law. He taught Property Law and other subjects in the Lyceum of the Philippines University Legal Studies program. FCB Law’s managing lawyer and founder.
The Philippines divorce measure faces obstacles in Senate committee.
The Philippine divorce bill is a complex piece of legislation with far-reaching implications. It is important to carefully consider all of the potential impacts of the bill before it is passed into law.
On the one hand, the bill could have a number of positive impacts. It could provide couples with a more dignified and less acrimonious way to end their marriages. It could also help to reduce the number of informal separations and cohabitation arrangements, which can be harmful to children and families. Additionally, the bill could help to promote gender equality by giving women more financial and legal independence.