The tea on why legalizing absolute divorce could change — and save — so many lives in the Philippines
We’re closer to getting divorce legalized in the Philippines and you can probably hear the collective (secret) sighs of relief. Just yesterday, 17 August 2021, the Committee on Population and Family Relations passed a bill legalizing absolute divorce in the Philippines. Now, the bill is on its way to the plenary of House Representatives. So much yas.
What the divorce law means
For those of us in unhappy marriages, it means a lot. It means that we don’t have to go though the tiresome (and super lengthy) process for legal annulment. Anyone who’s been through the process can tell you that it isn’t easy. It’s expensive, time-consuming and encourages people to go through sometimes (literally) crazy lengths to make it happen. We’re talking taking our former significant others to Lorena Bobbit-levels. Now imagine what it’s like for people who can’t afford to get annulled?
Under the proposal, the grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage and nullification of marriage based on psychological incapacity are grounds for absolute divorce. Others mentioned are separation for at least five years (at the time the petition is filed), when one of the spouses undergoes gender reassignment or transitions to another sex, irreconcilable marital differences, other forms of domestic or marital abuse, foreign divorce and the nullification of the marriage by a recognized religious tribunal.
Why annulments don’t work
According to Article 45 of the Family Code, you’ll need to prove your marriage is void to get annulled. To file, a couple needs to have all the prerequisites needed for marriage. And, most importantly, you’ll need to prove your spouse’s psychological incapacity. Here’s what it takes to get annulled in the Philippines:
1) Either party was 18 years of age or over but below 21, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of his parents, guardian, or person having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order, unless after attaining the age of 21, he/she freely cohabited with the other party;
(2) Either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
(3) Consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other;
(4) The consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other;
(5) Either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; or
(6) Either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable.
Now, put yourself in this scenario: what if you got married to a man who you thought loved you but started — knock on wood — beating you up. Or what if your partner turned out to be a raging alcoholic who’d verbally abuse you. Regardless of whether your marriage works or not, you can’t apply for annulment for any of the above reasons.
And it isn’t so straightforward — no thanks to the stigma around annulment and divorce in the country, not all psychologists welcome these assessments with open arms. Plus, it could cost around half a million pesos — this includes lawyer and psychologist fees.
Why we need the divorce law to get passed
Yes, marriages are sacred and are meant to be “til death to us part. Thanks to the divorce law, it means that you don’t have to stay in a marriage if it no longer serves the best interest of both parties, including your children. Children won’t have to witness the nasty effects of a failed marriage — and bear the emotional scars of it. For women who have always been afraid to leave their marriage, this law is a way out too.
Marriage isn’t easy, and in bad marriages, it’s often harder on women — especially women who don’t have the means to pay for an annulment or legal divorce. This law could change many lives, heck, it could even save some. Let’s hope they pass it soon, for all our sakes.