So as a single guy looking for your new love in the Philippines, you will have heard that Divorce in the Philippines is illegal and not recognised. In fact, the Philippines is one of only two countries left in the world that does not recognise divorce. The other is Vatican City.
However, like with all countries and all laws, especially when you add religion into the mixture, it is not clear cut.
What do I mean by this? Depending on the parties involved will depend on what level of Divorce Recognition there is.
Married Filipinas are dangerous.
You will see a lot of YouTube videos that tell you that if you get involved with a Filipina, and you find out she is married, you should run for the hills.
Remember, though, in the Philippines, the men have been raised to believe it is acceptable to beat up their wife or girlfriend if she does not do what they want. Before you jump on your high horse about this, just remember! It was the same in the west not so long ago, and although illegal now, it still happens at a frighteningly high rate.
So, with that in mind, there is more than likely an excellent reason she has moved away from her husband and is looking for happiness just the same as you are.
They are dangerous because they can land you in prison for six years. Don’t forget that the six years starts ticking down from your sentencing date. In the Philippines, you can sit in prison for years, waiting for a court date.
If you fall in love with a married Filipina. You need to be very careful if you are in the Philippines. The ex-husband only needs to put a verbal charge against you both. No evidence is required. If it was the other way around, i.e., a wife charging a husband, they can only accuse him of concubinage and must have a wealth of evidence, including video.
Is divorce recognised in the Philippines?
A Filipino couple married in a Catholic Church in the Philippines cannot get divorced. If they want their marriage to be annulled, they need to seek permission directly from the Catholic priest that married them to start this process, which takes time and is not guaranteed to work.
If the Filipino couple married in a civil ceremony, then it is off to court you go, and you better have a lot of money along with time.
Where it gets a little on the hypocritical side is for a mixed couple. If a Filipina married a westerner, then divorce between the two will be recognised by the Philippines once granted. This divorce can be obtained in or out of the country.
Now, suppose you and your Filipina live outside of the Philippines. In the UK for example and have no intention of returning to the Philippines. After a period of residency, normally 12 months. In that case, you could apply to the court for a divorce. With the correct forms and money, this will be granted within a few months. Then you will be free to marry.
Just remember, though, in the western world, this is legitimate, legal and to some extent normal. But in the eyes of the Philippines legal system, you will be committing adultery and bigamy. Now you are looking at six years for adultery and 12 years for bigamy.
What are valid reasons for Annulment?
The most common reasons for having a marriage annulled are psychological incapacity, lack of marriage license, bigamy and one of the parties being a minor (below 18). Other grounds are available but require more complex evidence and time.
In 2022, time marches on, and even the Philippines looks like it is coming into the light. As well as a divorce bill moving slowly through the government, the requirements around psychological incapacity have changed.
It used to be a case that the incapacity would need to be proven in court to be a permanent affliction of the accused party. It was also judged in court as a medical condition.
Now in 2022, psychological incapacity is treated as a legal argument and condition. It does not have to be proven to be a permanent condition but an explanation of the behaviour of the accused party.
How much does an Annulment Cost?
For me, this is the worst part of the whole deal and why it is out of reach for most Filipinos.
First of all, annulment is big business in the Philippines. There are many “lawyers” scamming Filipinos out of their money and dreams of a happy life. I say scam because the lawyer understands that the chances of failure are high. If the case fails, they do not need to refund any money they have taken.
Thus, with little to no effort, some bad lawyers can make a good living from this.
You need a good lawyer; because you have no choice in this as the annulment process is treated the same as any other court case. There will be a judge, a lawyer for the state (Prosecutor) and your own lawyer.
I have been lucky, and I have found a good law firm to represent me. This is “The law offices of De Borja, Lamorena, Duano and Navarro”.
The process for the lawyers, the doctor for the psychological evaluation report and before we have even been to court has cost us 280,000PhP (5,530USD).
How long does an Annulment take?
How long is a piece of string? You will hear about people doing this whole process in a year and some who have taken up to five years.
We have been in the system for over a year now. The paperwork is complete and has been submitted to the appropriate court. We now basically wait for the court to give us our date and then at what point a court appearance will be required. If we are lucky, the court appearance could be done remotely due to covid. If we are unlucky, then a trip to the Philippines will be required even though there is a high probability of cancellation.