Philippine Laws on Divorce, Separation & Annulment

By Sue Teresa Tan
Philippine Laws, Divorce
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Unfortunately, many fairytale weddings do not always end in eternal bliss. The truth is that differences, disputes and other factors emerge in even the happiest of unions. In the Philippines, the issues of divorce, separation and annulment are extremely difficult legal issues that require qualified lawyers who are extremely familiar with the many intricate and complex rules regarding the ending of marriages in the country.


Technically, as a Roman Catholic country, divorce is neither legal nor recognized in the Philippines. As such, the only way to dissolve a marriage is through an annulment. In the Philippines, a marriage annulment requires that Filipinos who have obtained a divorce outside the country still must obtain an annulment within the country of the Philippines. However, there exists what is essentially a “de facto divorce law” in the country, as seen in the Family Code’s Article 36. According to this provision, a marriage can be voided if one of its parties is “psychologically incapacitated” and therefore unable to perform essential marital obligations—even if this incapacity comes to light only after the contracting of the marriage. Although the Supreme Court in the Philippines has established guidelines for interpretation of this article, the law is prone to abuse because of the broad legal concept of what constitutes a psychological incapacitation.


Legal separation in the Philippines is described as a course of action in which one spouse in a marital union determines the marriage can no longer continue or work out. A wife or a husband can file a petition for legal separation based on several of the reasons listed in the Family Code. One common reason for the act of legal separation is constant physical violence or abuse. Another reason for legal separation is if there is the presence of threats of physical violence intended to force the petitioner to change her political or religious affiliation. Another reason would be when the spouse of the petitioner tries to force his child or his spouse’s child into prostitution. A party can also file for legal separation if his spouse is imprisoned and the sentence is for more than six years, or if the spouse attempts to kill the petitioner, or if the spouse is involved in illegal drug addiction or exhibits frequent alcoholism, lesbianism, homosexuality, sexual infidelity or sexual perversion.


The Annulment of Marriage is a Philippine court process required to annul the marital union between a wife and a husband. By law, annulment cases are exclusive to petitions with grounds that fall under Article 45 of the Family Code. Another process is completing a petition that declares the complete nullity of marriage, or a petition for nullity of marriage found under Article 35 (which is the Absence of Formal and Essential Requisites of Marriage), Article 36 (known as Psychological Incapacity), Article 37 (known as Incestuous Marriages) and finally, Article 38 (known as Void by reason of Public Policy of the Family Code).

About the Author

Based in Northern California, Sue Teresa Tan has been writing essays and journal entries during her free time since 2001 when she retired from work as a business owner. Her favorite topics to write about are arts and crafts, fashion, health, and travel. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in archeology from the Universite Des Beaux-Arts in Cambodia. Her work has been featured on eHow.