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Mixed Marriage Divorces are Valid, though Initiated by the Filipino spouse

Mixed Marriage Divorces are Valid, though Initiated by the Filipino spouse
By Maria Janina Rosario L. Paño

The case entitled “Republic of the Philippines v. Marelyn Tanedo Manalo,” G.R. No. 221029, 24 April 2018, arose from a Petition for Cancellation of Entry of Marriage in the Civil Registry of San Juan, Metro Manila, by virtue of a judgment of divorce rendered by a Japanese court. The Petition was later amended to a Petition for Recognition and Enforcement of a Foreign Judgment and the Cancellation of the Marriage in the Local Civil Registry.
The Petitioner, a Filipino, was previously married to a Japanese national. Petitioner filed a case for divorce in Japan and after due proceedings, a divorce decree was rendered by the Japanese court granting the divorce between the Petitioner and the Japanese national.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the RTC. It held that Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines (Family Code) is applicable even if it was Manalo who filed for divorce against her Japanese husband because the decree they obtained makes the latter no longer married to the former, capacitating him to remarry.
The Regional Trial Court denied the petition for lack of merit citing Article 15 of the Family Code.
Thus, the Supreme Court is asked to decide on whether or not a Filipino citizen who initiated a divorce proceeding under the laws of his/her foreign spouse’s national law, be allowed to remarry under Philippine laws after obtaining a decree granting the divorce.

The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative.

It was ruled that the Family Code, more particularly Article 26 thereof, only requires that there be a divorce validly obtained abroad. The Supreme Court further stated that “[t]he letter of the law does not demand that the alien spouse should be the one who initiated the proceeding wherein the divorce decree was granted. It does not distinguish whether the Filipino spouse is the petitioner or the respondent in the foreign divorce proceeding.”

The Supreme Court continued to state:

To reiterate, 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 an 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. Whether the Filipino spouse initiated the foreign divorce proceeding or not, a favorable decree dissolving the marriage bond and capacitating his or her alien spouse to remarry will have the same result: the Filipino spouse will effectively be without a husband or wife. A Filipino who initiated a foreign divorce proceeding is in the same place and in like circumstance as a Filipino who is at the receiving end of an alien initiated proceeding. Therefore, the subject provision should not make a distinction. In both instance, it is extended as a means to recognize the residual effect of the foreign divorce decree on Filipinos whose marital ties to their alien spouses are severed by operation of the latter’s national law.

In addition thereto, it was ruled that there is substantial difference between a scenario that the spouses are both Filipinos, vis-à-vis a union between a foreigner and a Filipino. In the former scenario, the spouses are still considered Filipinos and have the same rights and obligations in a foreign land as we follow the nationality principle in matters involving personal obligations and marriages.

Thus, the Supreme Court made a distinction between these types of marriages as the old “treatment gives undue favor to one and unjustly discriminate against the other.”

However, the case was later remanded to the Regional Trial Court to receive further evidence on the Japanese law validating the divorce and capacitating the Japanese national from remarry, as the same was not previously proven by the Petitioner.