Divorce and annulment in the Philippines: What's the difference?

After the introduction of the Divorce Bill in Congress last month, the possibility of having both divorce and annulment in the Philippines as an option for married couples to separate is closer than ever before. But what's the difference?

Now that a divorce bill has officially been introduced in the Philippine Congress, people have a lot of questions (and opinions). What's the difference between divorce and annulment in the Philippines anyway? And why introduce divorce when people can just separate anyway regardless of the law?

Let’s tackle divorce first.

Divorce is a legal decree that dissolves a marriage before the death of either spouse. In a divorce court proceeding, a court may resolve the following issues:

  • Child custody
  • Division of assets
  • Spousal support/alimony

After divorce becomes final, both parties are no longer legally bound to one another. They’re then free to remarry or forge a domestic partnership with another person

Difference between divorce and annulment in the Philippines

A divorce recognizes and ends a legally valid marriage. Meanwhile, an annulment once granted treats the marriage as if it never existed because the court found that it was invalid in the first place.

For people thinking of an annulment, let us reiterate: The annulment of marriage is the legal decree that declares a marriage as null and void. The court grants annulment to a couple when it finds that the marriage is invalid from the very beginning.

They do have the same end result: the dissolution of the marriage. Both parties are single and may enter into a domestic partnership with another person.

In both cases, the presiding court will determine the issues concerning child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of assets.

Knowing more about divorce

Assuming that divorce and annulment in the Philippines are both legal options for you, it is important to know why you might want to consider getting a divorce rather than an annulment. Specifically, a divorce may be advantageous if:

  1. You have children. An annulment means that the marriage never occurred. Thus, issues such as child custody and support are not included in annulment proceedings. The law’s view that the marriage never occurred after an annulment is granted may impact child custody and support proceedings.
  2. You have property that needs dividing. Similarly, property division is not an issue in an annulment. But the fact that the marriage never occurred in the eyes of the law can impact how property is divided during other legal proceedings.
  3. You don’t qualify for an annulment. In this case the annulment process may be more expensive than divorce.

Financial differences in divorce and annulment in the Philippines

When it comes to finances, the difference is stark.

Marital property is usually divided equitably according to a judge’s determination during a divorce (unless there is a valid prenuptial agreement). Whatever assets or debts acquired during a marriage is considered marital property, but laws about how the property is divided may vary depending on where you're divorced in the world.

When a marriage is annulled, the courts usually try to restore each party to his or her original financial state before the marriage occurred. This means that what you brought to the marriage you will usually take away after the marriage is dissolved.  

Best interests

If a couple has accumulated some shared assets prior to an annulment, it can get a little more complicated. The division of these assets is usually handled as if two strangers bought property together. When children are involved, child support and custody agreements are handled just like a divorce.

If you are the financially weaker partner, it may be in your best interest to file for a divorce. If, on the other hand, you have substantial assets and can prove that your marriage should never have occurred, filing for an annulment can save you a lot of dough (particularly in spousal support).

An annulment can also help one partner avoid liability for another partner’s significant debt. Talk to a divorce attorney about the specific circumstances of your marriage to find out which of these options will work best for you.

The grounds for obtaining an annulment

The grounds for annulment vary between place to place, but separating couples can typically obtain an annulment for one of the following reasons:

The marriage...

  • was incestuous.
  • was bigamous.
  • was the result of force (intimidation, undue influence coercion), fraud, or physical or mental (insanity) incapacity.
  • took place when one or both spouses were below the legal age for marriage (lack of parental consent in certain cases).
  • took place when one or both spouses were already married or in a registered domestic partnership.
  • took place when one or both spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • took place when one or both spouses have STDs or, in the man's case, impotence.

Finer details of divorce and annulment in the Philippines

Though divorce isn’t allowed in the Philippines yet, there are certain instances where couples who secured a divorce abroad (either by foreigner spouses or former Filipino citizens) are recognized by Philippine law. You can read more about divorce in foreign lands here.

If you’re in a foreign country, you can file a petition for the annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage. The law recognizes this.

However, marrying someone in a country where divorce is allowed doesn’t make a difference. Filipinos are covered by the prohibition on divorce based on the “nationality principle,” regardless of where they’re married. There are discussions on divorce relating to Overseas Filipino Workers here.

Put it on paper

Now for some people, even if the marriage was void from the beginning, they still need a court order declaring it thus for the purpose of remarriage. Why? Because entering into a subsequent marriage without a court declaration means that (a) the subsequent marriage is void/illegal and that (b) both parties open themselves to a possible charge of bigamy.

Some people might think that a way out of a marriage might be the absence of a marriage certificate. However, Justice Sempio-Dy has this to say from the Family Code of the Philippines.

“The marriage certificate is not an essential or formal requisite of marriage without which the marriage will be void.

“An oral marriage is, therefore, valid, and failure of a party to sign the marriage certificate or the omission of the solemnizing officer to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the proper local civil registrar, does not invalidate the marriage.

“Also the mere fact that no record of marriage can be found, does not invalidate the marriage provided all the requisites for its validity are present.” 

Knowing more about divorce and annulment in the Philippines

If you're still wondering about divorce and annulment in the Philippines, you can check out the basics of its laws via the following link: Divorce and Annulment in the Philippines (Laws).

If you have questions regarding legal separation, divorce and annulment in the Philippines, you can read other people's questions and a law professionals' answers in the following thread:

Frequently answered questions on Divorce, Annulment, and Legal Separation in the Philippines.

 

Source: Jaromay Laurente Pamaos Law Offices Blog, Flash Divorce, The Street

You can also read: 4 Ways divorce made me a better mom