The Philippines and Vatican City are the only countries/places in the world that do not have divorce laws. Therefore, in order for a previously married Filipino person, whose spouse is still alive, to be able to marry again is to get a legal civil annulment.
If an annulment is what you require then it is best to have an idea of what the process is in order to be prepared as much as possible. We at Olvis, the Immigration, Visa and Travel Experts in the Philippines, cannot offer legal advice as we are not lawyers, however based on our knowledge and experience with assisting personnel with marriage, immigration and visa matters, we would like to explain the generally-accepted process of civil annulment.
Step 1 is to consult with and hire an attorney. An attorney’s fees for an annulment can range from 70,000 pesos (approximately 1,600 USD) to 120,000 pesos (approximately 2,700 USD). One should be careful to ensure the hiring of an actual certified lawyer as there are many people in the Philippines that will offer to handle the annulment quickly for a larger amount of money, but in fact will most likely do nothing or come back with reasons why they need a little more money and time.
The time it takes to complete the annulment process is another non-exact amount. This will depend on the talent and abilities of the lawyer as well as the court schedules. The time can be from 6 months to 4 years for an uncontested annulment case (when the spouse does not show up in court) depending on the availability of witnesses, custody of children or property issues to name a few. If the spouse does appear and any issues are contested then it may take even longer.
In order to ensure things stay on track and get accomplished it is important to frequently follow up with your lawyer.
Step 2 is to document the relationship and marital history from beginning to end. It should include a detailed description of the circumstances in which the couple first met, the relationship after marriage and details of separation and end of the relationship.
Chapter 3: Void and Voidable Marriages of Executive Order 209 (The Family Code of the Philippines) describes the conditions of which a marriage may be invalid from the start and/or become voidable after the marriage in Articles 35 through 44.
Article 45 of Chapter 3 states that a marriage may be annulled for any of the following causes, existing at the time of the marriage:
(1) That the party in whose behalf it is sought to have the marriage annulled was eighteen years of age or over but below twenty-one, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of the parents, guardian or person having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order, unless after attaining the age of twenty-one, such party freely cohabited with the other and both lived together as husband and wife;
(2) That either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
(3) That the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
(4) That the consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
(5) That either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; or
(6) That either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable.
Psychological Incapacity is commonly used in the Philippines as grounds for an annulment and is covered in Article 36 of the Family Code.
Step 3 is the psychological evaluation process. The person filing the annulment must undergo a psychological evaluation. Your lawyer can recommend a psychologist/psychiatrist to conduct the evaluation and be a witness in court. The evaluation may cost from 15,000 pesos to as high as 40,000 pesos. This may or may not include an appearance in court fee. Frequently these fees are included in the attorneys initial fee, be sure to ask.
Step 4 is for the lawyer to draft and file the petition, which the requesting party must sign, with the court system. Once filed, the case will be assigned to a branch of the Regional Trial Court. The non-filing spouse will then be notified by summons to answer the petition within a number of days from receipt of the summons.
Collusion of marriage is when both parties agree to file an annulment. This will be investigated by a public prosecutor that is assigned to the court and will be asked to determine if the parties involved are conspiring to file a case. Collusion – mutually agreed-upon separation – is not an acceptable condition and will result in a dismissal of the annulment petition.
Once the case goes to trial witnesses will be called that normally includes the petitioning party, a corroborating witness (who knew the couple and what happened to the marriage), and the psychologist who will testify on the evaluation made. Questions will also be asked by the public prosecutor representing the Government.
At the completion of the trial the case is then submitted for a decision. This may take 90 days or more.
Note: The presence of the non-filing spouse at the trial is not required. In fact, in the majority of annulment proceedings the non-filing spouse does not participate at all. This actually makes the process faster as there is no need for questioning the non-filing spouse or their witnesses.
Disclaimer: The information above provided by Olvis, the Immigration, Visa and Travel Experts in the Philippines, is for informational purposes only as we strive to assist our customers as best we can and in no way should be construed as actual legal advice.