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Atty. Cindy Climaco asks: Is There Divorce in the Philippines?

Did you know that aside from Vatican City the Philippines is the only country left in the world where divorce remains illegal? Yes, you read that correctly, divorce is not allowed in the Philippines (except under very specific circumstances, which I will come to later).

Generally speaking, there are two ways for married Filipinos to separate, namely: 1) Legal Separation pursuant to Article 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines; and 2) Annulment pursuant to Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines.

There are instances where divorce is judicially recognized here in the Philippines, but it only applies where the marriage contracted is between a Filipino and a Foreigner. Under paragraph 2 of Article 26: “Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under the Philippine law”.

However, recently, the Supreme Court held in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo, G.R. No. 221029, 24 April 2018, that, a foreign divorce decree that was initiated and obtained by a Filipino spouse is now judicially recognized in our courts.

The Supreme Court interpreted Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines based on its intent. It stated that the Court would not follow the letter of the statute when to do so would depart from the true intent of the legislature or would otherwise yield conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the act. Laws have ends to achieve, and statutes should be construed as not to defeat but to carry out such ends and purposes.

Thus, the Court held that, “the purpose of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 is to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after a foreign divorce decree that is effective in the country where it was rendered, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse. The provision is a corrective measure to address the anomaly where the Filipino spouse is tied to the marriage while the foreign spouse is free to marry under the laws of his or her country”.

Now I come to the ‘specific circumstances’ I mentioned earlier. Aside from the divorce obtained abroad under Paragraph 2 of Article 26, the Philippines also recognizes divorce obtained by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1083, known as the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.”

The Philippines recognizes divorce obtained pursuant to P.D. 1083 as long as both parties are Muslims, or wherein only the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim law. However, under Article 45 of P.D. 1083, divorce may be granted only after the exhaustion of all possible means of reconciliation between the spouses.

So, to sum up, a Filipino who validly contracted his or her marriage with a foreign national and obtained a divorce decree abroad may now file a petition for recognition of foreign judgment in the regular court, while Muslims may file a petition for divorce before the Shari’a Courts.  But, for now, that’s as far as it goes.

Atty. Cindy T. Climaco


The Family Code of the Philippines : EO No. 209. July 1987.

The Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines: PD No 1083

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