Divorce Bill Gets Congress Approval

Currently, the Philippines and the Vatican are the only countries in the world that do not have a divorce law—but that’s about to change.

Given that the Vatican is an independent city-state ruled over by the Holy See of the Catholic Church, it technically means that it’s just the Philippines that has stood its no-divorce ground even after all this time.

However, the start of February 2020 showed promising news as the House of Representatives passed the House Bill No. 100 or the Absolute Divorce Act of 2019. Though the bill still must pass the Senate, we decided that this was the right time to take a closer look at what the reality of having divorce here in the Philippines could bring.

What is absolute divorce?

The term “absolute divorce” under House Bill No. 100 means, “the separation between married couples that is total and final where the husband and wife return to their status of being single with the right to contract marriage again.”

This proves a more practical and efficient way to sever marriages compared to the current process of annulment. The latter’s main objective is to prove that the marriage did not happen in the first place through evidence of issues before the marriage such as psychological incapacity. This can take years and a whole lot of money to process.

Why do we need an Absolute Divorce Law?

The Absolute Divorce Bill has a bigger emphasis on women’s rights, stating, “not being able to get out of an eventual loveless, unhappy, even abusive marriage is a human rights concern for women.” This is a stand that has been brought up in the media time and again by those that have been actively pushing for divorce.

Its author, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, also clarified that one of its main objectives is to provide a remedy “for the exceptional cases when the marital bond is irremediably damaged because marriage is still a human institution which could collapse and wither due to human frailty and mortal limitations.”

(Read: House Of Representatives Approves Easier And Cheaper Annulment Process)

Guiding principles of the Absolute Divorce Bill

The pending law states that the court proceedings for divorce will be affordable and inexpensive for the petitioners who will seek help under the law.

One of its guiding principles says that it is the women petitioners who are entitled to a divorce, so they can officially leave an abusive relationship, and start rebuilding their lives.

Priority will also be given to OFW petitioners for their court hearing process and availability.

Even after the filing, the law stresses that divorce is only for those who’s marriage is “irredeemably damaged,” as Representative Lagman stressed above.

After a petition has been filed the couple still has to abide by a six-month “cooling-off period” before the proceedings will push through, giving couples the time for reconciliation.

How to get an absolute divorce in the Philippines

The Absolute Divorce Bill still needs to go through the Senate. When passed into law, these are the valid reasons under House Bill No. 100 Section 8:

  1. When the spouses have been separated de facto for at least five years
  2. When one of the spouses has contracted a bigamous marriage;
  3. When the spouses have been legally separated by judicial decree for two years or more
  4. When one of the spouses has been sentenced to imprisonment for six years, even if subsequently pardoned
  5. When one of the spouses has undergone a sex reassignment surgery or has transitioned into another sex; and
  6. When both spouses have filed a joint petition for the dissolution of their marriage before the proper Family Court based on any of the ground provided for in this Act.

(Read: Divorce in the Philippines: The Current Score And What Is In Store)

What will happen to the children and the property of a divorced couple?

Minors under custody battle will be protected under the provisions of Article 213 of the Family Code of the Philippines. Children under seven years old will not be separated from their mothers unless circumstances and court ruling demand otherwise.

Both legitimate and adopted children will regain their legal status and children conceived or born within 300 days after the divorce petition will still be legitimate, unless the ground for divorce is the wife’s extramarital affair.

Joint assets will be split evenly between parties and the court will make sure no party gets an unfair share. Conjugal properties will be “dissolved and liquidated and the assets shall be equally divided between the spouses excluding the paraphernal or exclusive properties of either spouse.”

And as far as alimonies go, if one of the petitioners is not gainfully employed, they will be entitled to receive support from the other. However, this will only be true until the petitioner finds gainful employment or for one year after the divorce was granted.

The amount of support to be granted needs to be proportionate to the income of the employed petitioner and the needs of the unemployed petitioner.

Child support will go through court proceedings, following the Family Code of the Philippines, and also taking into consideration the needs of the recipient.

Sources: PNA, Congress, Absolute Divorce Act of 2019