OUR PRACTICE AS ANNULMENT LAWYERS IN THE PHILIPPINES:
Generally grounded on “psychological incapacity” , this is the Philippine version of divorce in the West. While a legal misnomer in that it may involve the incapacity of one or both spouses which may have existed and became manifest after the celebration of the marriage unlike the usual legal notion of annulment the grounds for which must have been already in existence only at the time of the taking of the marital vows, the legal procedure for obtaining an annulment of marriage has been streamlined in recent years to now allow for the nullity of the marriage even if the respondent spouse is out of the country or could not otherwise be found by effecting jurisdiction over the latter’s person through publication of the appropriate court order. Judicial affidavits in place of the traditional direct testimony are also now widely-used, thus expediting the process. Jurisprudence has even removed the former requirements that the psychological incapacity be “clinical” in nature and that there be an endorsement of the Office of the Solicitor General before the family court can render a decision declaring a marriage null and void.
The partners of the firm engaged in litigation practice, have been representing clients as annulment lawyers in the Philippines since this was allowed in 1988. A dedicated Family Law Department made of the best annulment lawyers from the top law schools in the country has seen the law and the practice evolve to now include issues on custody (local and under the Hague Convention), support even if the non-supportive spouse is already a resident of another country, division of property, determination of the presumptive legitimes of the children under very complicated marital property regimes, recognition of a foreign divorce, and the application of principles of private international law in cases involving dissolution of marriages.
HOW TO GET AN ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES, A STEP BY STEP APPROACH:
STEP 1: READ UP ON THE PROCESS OF ANNULMENT.
There are readily available materials online and on this website dealing with the process of annulment. This will give you an idea of what you are getting into and the experiences of others who have gone through the process.
Your research at this preliminary stage should focus on the grounds for annulment, the procedure, the choice of attorneys, and the costs involved. Visit online attorney directories, read up on articles on annulment, and if you have friends or relatives who have gone through an annulment, it may be a good idea to talk to them so you could compare costs and an idea of the time required to complete the process.
Understand also the related concepts of Legal Separation, Adultery , Bigamy, Concubinage, and Sexual Infidelity. There are related post on this site on these matters, their equivalent in Tagalog, and their respective meanings.
STEP 2: CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY
The choice of an attorney or lawyer is the most important part of the annulment process. Your choice will determine your probable success and whether or not the legal services you are seeking would match your financial budget and your timetable.
But how do you choose your attorney. For most people, it would be the first time they would need to speak to a lawyer. Naturally, you would be inclined to look for the best lawyers who are experts in the field of Family Law.
First and foremost, choose an attorney that you can trust. Avoid those who promise you the moon and the stars just to get your business. Beware of websites and attorneys who promise to get you a fast annulment in a few months time, or insist that you do not even have to appear in court to get an annulment. These are telltale signs of a scam and that you are dealing with a fixer. We have an article on this website on scams and fraudulent schemes. Please click here.
The next consideration in your choice of an attorney is the cost which can vary depending on the experience of the attorney , the issues involved such as child custody, support, or property settlement.
Once you have narrowed your options to 3 or 4 lawyers, you are ready to schedule your appointment and then make your final choice.
Do not forget to ask your attorney for a written contract which should indicate in detail the terms and conditions of the handling of the case. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney questions on the contract, which tend to be very legalistic. If needed, ask him to translate the words for you. If an attorney refuses to reduce the agreement in writing or is not willing to explain the terms and conditions to your satisfaction, walk away while you can. Often, one would be tempted to get a lawyer based on the cheapest annulment package that they can find. As in most things, the saying goes that you get what you pay for.
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STEP 3. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION.
After the initial consultation with your choice for an attorney and the signing of the contract, the next step would be the psychological evaluation. In the Philippines, the ground for most annulments (or more precisely, declaration of nullity of marriage) is psychological incapacity. You can find a discussion of this on this website. Please click here.
The scope of the psychological evaluation varies between psychologists. Some are more thorough than others. Normally, it consists of written tests which will determine your personality and an interview where you will be asked about your spouse and your marriage.
The psychologist and your attorney will ask you to make a marital history which will form the basis of the petition and the psychological evaluation.
STEP 4. THE FILING OF THE PETITION.
After the written psychological evaluation is released by the psychologist, your attorney will proceed to draft the petition which will be filed in court based on the facts that he gathered from you during your initial consultation and the written psychological evaluation.
For those who reside abroad or are overseas workers, the petition can be filed initially without the psychological evaluation . The psychological evaluation can be undertaken before your testimony in court, but must still be submitted prior to the testimony of the psychologist.
Once the petition is drafted, your attorney should submit it for your approval before finalizing it. After all, you know your marital history and would be able to double check the facts.
When the petition is finalized, you would need to sign the affidavit of non forum shopping which will be attached to the petition. If you are in the Philippines, the affidavit has to be sworn before a notary public. If you are abroad, it may be signed before the nearest Philippine consulate.
When the petition is filed in court, it will go through the process of being assigned to a judge by raffle which is open to the public.
STEP 5. PRE-TRIAL AND COLLUSION INVESTIGATION.
When your case is received by the judge who was lucky enough to be picked in the raffle, it will be scheduled for pre-trial . The court will also issue an order asking the prosecutor assigned to the court to conduct a collusion investigation to determine if you and your spouse conspired to file the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. Philippine law does not allow for the parties to agree to an annulment, unlike in some other countries where there is consensual or a no-contest divorce.
During the pre-trial process, the judge will limit the issues involved in the case and may direct the parties to also submit to a mediation to determine if they can agree on certain preliminary issues like support, custody , or visitorial privileges.
STEP 6. TRIAL.
A trial of an annulment case normally involves three (3) main witnesses, the Petitioner (you), the psychologist, and a corroborating witness ( a friend or relative who knew the couple while they were married and has first-hand knowledge of the break-up). All witnesses will be subject to the cross-examination of the prosecutor.
The respondent (the “ex”) is notified throughout the process and can appear to contest the petition, although this is very rare.
STEP 7. THE DECISION.
After the witnesses are heard, the case is submitted for the decision of the court.
From the time the decision is rendered , there is a 15 day period from the latest receipt of any party within which a motion for reconsideration can be filed.
If your annulment is granted, the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) through the Public Prosecutor can file a motion for reconsideration and appeal the case to the Court of Appeals. If this happens, the annulment does not become final and you will have to wait next for the decision of the Court of Appeals.
STEP 8. ANNOTATION WITH THE CIVIL REGISTRAR’S OFFICE.
If the annulment is granted, the Office of the Civil Registrar in the place where the marriage took place has to annotate the decision of the court so anyone can check if the marriage was truly rendered null and void.
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