Validity of foreign divorce decree

Dear Atty. Peachy,

I married my first boyfriend immediately after college. We separated after only a year of living together as husband and wife and have been living separate lives for 15 years now.

I am currently living with a man who I believe to be my soulmate. We have been together for five years now and have been blessed with two beautiful daughters. We have been wanting to get married but we are still saving up for the annulment of my first marriage. Last week, I saw the sister of my husband at an event. I learned from her that she is leaving for the United States next month to attend the wedding of my husband. She told me that my husband migrated to the United States a year after we separated and became a naturalized US citizen 10 years thereafter. He apparently divorced me after he became a US citizen and had a serious relationship with another woman whom he will be marrying next month.

Can I already remarry considering that my husband already divorced me in the United States? Can I simply get a copy of the Divorce Certificate and present it to the Office of the Civil Registrar where our marriage is recorded? A friend of mine told me that I still cannot remarry because the divorce that my husband obtained in the United States is not valid here in the Philippines as we were both Filipinos when we got married, and the Philippines does not allow divorce.

Is she right? Does this mean that I still have to file a Petition for the Annulment of my marriage with him while he is already free to marry another woman?



Dear Nina,

You need not file a Petition for the Annulment of your marriage anymore. The Divorce Decree that your husband obtained in the United States may be recognized in the Philippine jurisdiction. The recognition of divorce is contained in the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, to wit:

Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 36, 37 and 38.

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 have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Underscoring supplied)

In the 2005 case of Orbecido

(G.R. 154380, 5 October 2005), the Supreme Court concluded that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 “applies to a case where, at the time of the celebration of the marriage, the parties were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them acquired foreign citizenship by naturalization, initiated a divorce proceeding, and obtained a favorable decree.” If the former Filipino spouse secures a divorce abroad, the divorce is valid and will be recognized in the Philippines, capacitating the Filipino spouse to remarry as well.

You cannot, however, simply go to the Local Civil Registrar to have the Divorce Decree that your husband obtained in the United States recorded. The Local Civil Registrar will not record the Divorce Decree and annotate it in your marriage certificate without a court order.

A valid divorce decree obtained abroad is not automatically recognized in the Philippines. A foreign divorce decree must be proven, just like any fact, in the Philippine jurisdiction. The proper petition must be filed in court. You need to file a Petition for Recognition of a Foreign Judgment of Divorce. In that Petition, you must be able to prove, among others, the nationality of your husband at the time that he obtained the divorce and that his national laws allow him to obtain a divorce and remarry.

Atty. Peachy Selda-Gregorio

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