It used to be that Filipino couples were trapped legally in marriages that have gone wrong . 350 years of the Spanish Civil Code and the theocracy of the Catholic Church made abundantly clear the message of “till death do us part”.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHURCH ANNULMENT AND CIVIL ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES?
In a recent visit by Pope Francis, annulment in the Philippines was at the forefront of the issues that the Catholic pontiff chose to meet head on. A declaration was swiftly made not only to simplify the annulment process in the Philippines but, in fact, to make it cost-free.
For most Filipinos rejoicing over the Pope’s announcement was short-lived as legal experts in the Philippines were quick to point out that a Catholic church annulment will not legally dissolve the marriage and allow both parties therein to remarry in the eyes of the law. The constitutional doctrine of separation between the church and state was cited for the anomaly.
It was also pointed out, however, that the Pope’s declaration indicated a softening in the stance of the Catholic Church with respect to divorce in the Philippines, raising hopes that divorce will be allowed in the foreseeable future. Annulment lawyers in the Philippines noted that Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines which allowed for the declaration of nullity of a marriage based on psychological incapacity was a compromise with the then hard position of the Catholic church against divorce. It was argued that if the Pope is somehow giving way on the issue that the civil law can allow some relaxation as well. Recently, the Philippine House of Representatives passed on third reading HB 6779 entitled “AN ACT RECOGNIZING THE CIVIL EFFECT OF CHURCH ANNULMENT DECREE” which aims to have a church or religious annulment automatically recognized by law and allows for its registration. This has been criticized as violating the constitutional principle of separation of church and state . Please CLICK HERE for our detailed discussion of the proposed legislation.
2) IS THERE DIVORCE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
It is not completely true to say that there is no divorce in the Philippines. The Muslim Personal Code, in fact, allows for divorce under Sharia law between two Muslims, or when the husband is a Muslim.
There is even opinion to the effect that Art. 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines effectively operates as a divorce statute because it completely dissolves the marital union allowing the parties to remarry on the ground of psychological incapacity to annul the marriage “which may manifest itself during the marriage”.
3) WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES?
What complicates the annulment process in the Philippines is the legal requirement of psychological incapacity as a ground to sever the marital ties.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines has given psychological incapacity a very wide meaning. Since the law was based on Catholic Canon Law, annulment lawyers in the Philippines often cite the following illustrative instances of psychological incapacity, such as drug addiction, lesbianism, homosexuality, habitual intoxication, absence, failure to support, among others.
The Supreme Court has often required that the above instances are not exclusive and must be taken together in the determination of psychological incapacity, which has been defined generally as the failure of one spouse to comply with his or her marital obligations . The Court has also required that the psychological incapacity must be based on antecedent facts, meaning that it must have existed prior to the celebration of the marriage, must be serious although not necessarily clinical, and must be incurable.
4) WHAT IS THE COST OF ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES?
When one considers the cost of obtaining an annulment in the Philippines, the first thing to contend with is the attorney’s fees. Billing schemes vary widely among lawyers in the Philippines. Solo practitioners would often bill on a fixed basis while big law firms often charge on an hourly rate. Attorney’s fees taken by itself could range from 100 thousand Philippine pesos (app USD2,000) to 500 thosuand pesos (appUSD10,000). The average attorney’s fee as a component of the cost of an annulment in the Philippines hovers between 150 to 300 thousand pesos (app3,000 to 6,000 usd) . Some firms even offer payment plans to complete the process of annulment .
The second cost component is the psychological evaluation . There is the report and the appearance fee of the psychologist or psychiatrist when he appears in court to testify. The fee could range between 20 thousand pesos to 40 thousand pesos. Some rates expressed online point to fees as high as 100 thousand pesos.
The median total cost of annulment in the Philippine is about 200 to 250 thousand pesos (appUSD 4 to 5 thousand).
5) ANNULMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES: HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
The single most important factor in determining the time to complete the process of annulment in the Philippines is congested court dockets. There are simply too many cases for very few judges to handle. Factor in prosecutors (who are required to handle hearings to determine if the parties are colluding with each other to obtain an annulment) who are themselves overly burdened with criminal cases, and you have the recipe for a process that can take about a year or two to complete.
(updated on 09 February 2018)
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