Philippine courts do not recognize foreign decrees, such as a divorce decree, unless the same is proven as having been validly obtained abroad. When a Filipino gets divorced, his or her marital status as indicated in the records of the NSO (now Philippine Statistics Authority) cannot be changed to “single” by merely presenting a divorce decree. The Court needs to order the NSO to change the said entry to enable the Filipino divorcee to remarry.
Where to file. This is done through a Petition for Recognition of Foreign Divorce filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the place where the petitioner is a resident thereof.
Documentary requirements. Satisfactorily completing the documentary requirements is the major roadblock in these kinds of petition. Not only is it difficult to properly accomplish, Courts also vary in their appreciation of the sufficiency of the document.
For instance, to show the existence of the divorce law, you will present a copy of relevant portions of the divorce law of Japan. As the same is in the Japanese language, you will need to find an accredited translator to have the translation certified as the true translation. You also have to find the “custodian” of the divorce law to certify the same as its true copy. Finally, you have to go to the nearest Philippine Embassy to have the documents authenticated or as they call it, “red-ribboned”.
Here is a list of the documents we have so far used in the recognition cases we have handled:
1. Marriage Certificate
2. Divorce Decree
3. Birth Certificate of the spouses and the children, if any
4. Official publication of the Divorce Law (or portions of it indicating the right to obtain to divorce and the right to remarry after the divorce is granted)
5. Special Power of Attorney (if case is filed in your behalf by a representative)
6. Copy of Valid Philippine passport
All documents obtained abroad which are not in the English language have to be translated, certified and authenticated. If the documents are in English, then it only needs to be certified and authenticated.
Formal requirements. Not all Filipinos who has obtained a divorce can file for recognition. In the case of Republic vs. Obrecido, the Supreme Court had the occasion to state the twin elements that should be present before a Filipino can file for recognition:
1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
If the divorce was obtained by two Filipinos abroad, the same cannot be recognized here as it was not a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner. If, on the other hand, the divorce was obtained by a former Filipino who obtained a citizenship abroad and then filed for divorce, then he or she is effectively a foreigner and may thus have the divorce recognized here. Note that what matters is the citizenship of the parties at the time of divorce, not at the time of marriage.
The divorce law must also allow the Filipino divorcee to remarry. Although I have not heard of a divorce law that prevents the divorcing spouses to remarry, this portion of the law must still be specifically pointed out in Court.
Timeline and procedure. The entire proceeding should take about six months to a year, depending on how quickly the Court will act on the petition by scheduling the hearings and drafting the decision. There will be at least two hearings- the jurisdictional hearing and the presentation of the petitioner as a witness.
A judicial affidavit is required to be submitted to take the place of the direct testimony of the petitioner but the petitioner still has to attend in Court to confirm that he or she in fact executed the judicial affidavit and that all the statements there are correct.
After the hearings are concluded, the Court, assuming the petitioner satisfied all requirements, will grant the petition and will order the NSO to indicate in their records that the status of the petitioner is “single” and that as such, he or she is free to remarry.
Costs. Costs differ from one lawyer to another. Our personal research revealed that lawyers charge about 80,000 Pesos to 150,000 Pesos, depending on the logistics involved and other circumstances of the client.
It may be wise to choose a lawyer who has successfully handled recognition cases before to ensure proper appreciation of documents and proven knowledge of the procedure.
Other remedies. If after having read the above article, you discovered that you are not eligible to file a recognition case, you may also opt for the declaration of nullity of your marriage, assuming you have a good ground for it.