Marriage is “forever” for most Filipinos. Divorce is not an option. The Philippines is one of only two countries in the world that do not allow divorce. The other is Vatican City. Thus, Filipinos who are separated from their spouses can only apply for divorce abroad. In Canada, home to close to a million Filipino expatriates, the divorce process is clear and simple. In contrast, getting an annulment in the Philippines is complicated and results are uncertain.
The grounds for the annulment of marriage in the Philippines are strict and must exist at the time of marriage. However, relationship breakdowns naturally happen after marriage. This is the reason most marriage breakdowns do not qualify for an annulment in the Philippines. Legal separation is a remedy but that is another topic for discussion. If you’re Filipino (or born Filipino) and are considering applying for a divorce in Canada, continue reading to know more.
What is divorce?
Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body. This means marriage no longer has an effect and a person with a “divorced” status can remarry as if their status is “single”. Many Filipinos are naturally confused by this because the concept is completely foreign to them. In the Philippines, marriage continues to have legal consequences even if the couple is in fact already separated. Filipinos have a Tagalog saying “ang kasal ay hindi parang mainit na kanin na pag napaso ka, iluluwa mo na”. Translate that into English and write your comments below. It is surprising for some Filipinos to learn that, outside the Philippines, divorce is allowed in every country except the Vatican.
What is an annulment of marriage?
Annulment is the declaration by a court that the marriage is null and void. Like divorce, this also means that the marriage is no longer in effect. However, unlike divorce, an annulled marriage is usually considered null and void from the beginning (at the start of marriage), not just when the annulment was granted. This is because the grounds for annulment must exist at the time of marriage.
What’s the difference between Divorce in Canada and Annulment in the Philippines?
The grounds for divorce in Canada are the following:
- being separated for at least one year;
- adultery; and
- physical or mental cruelty.
Some grounds for annulment of marriage in the Philippines are the following:
- marriage between minors;
- marriage solemnized without a marriage license;
- marriage solemnized by a person not authorized;
- psychological incapacity;
- lack of parental consent;
- consent obtained by fraud, force, intimidation, or undue influence;
- either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other; and
- either party was afflicted with a sexually transmissible disease.
The most important distinction between the grounds for annulment or divorce is the timing.
For divorce, the grounds can happen after the marriage. For annulment, the grounds must exist at the time of marriage. This explains why the effect of an annulment is that the marriage is void or without effect from the beginning. Also, note that being separated in fact for at least one year is sufficient grounds for divorce. It does not matter what caused the separation. In Canada, a married person can decide to separate for any reason. There is no need to explain or give reasons.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I get divorced in Canada even if I’m not a Canadian citizen?
Yes. You may apply for a divorce order even if you’re not a Canadian citizen. Permanent and temporary residents including foreign students, workers, or visitors, may apply for a divorce if all other requirements are met.
Can I get a divorce in Canada even if I’m only a visitor?
Yes. A foreign visitor may apply for a divorce in Canada. The minimum requirement is that the applicant has been a resident of Canada for a least one year.
Do I need a lawyer to file an application for divorce?
No. Hiring a lawyer is not mandatory but is recommended if you are not familiar with the rules.
Can I hire someone else, not a lawyer, to help me with the divorce application?
No. Only licensed lawyers are allowed to advise and represent you for the divorce application.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
It used to take only a few months (less than a year) to get a divorce order (pre-COVID) but this can vary depending on many factors.
What can cause a delay in getting a divorce?
One of the most common causes of delay is the service of documents, especially if the respondent (your ex-spouse) lives outside of Canada. “Service” means providing a copy of your divorce application documents to the respondent. This is an essential part of the process and will cause a delay if not done according to the rules. Another cause of delay is if no reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of any children of the marriage.
Do I have to be present in court for the divorce application?
No. Generally, you do not need to attend court particularly if the divorce is uncontested. Uncontested means that your divorce application is not being opposed by the respondent.
Do I need to get divorced if I’m applying for permanent residency in Canada and am already separated from my spouse in the Philippines?
No. However, getting a divorce order can be useful in case you are applying to become a permanent resident in Canada and are already separated from your spouse. A divorce certificate is proof that you are no longer married to your ex-spouse and you need not included him or her in your application. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified lawyer for a full discussion.
Can I be charged with bigamy in the Philippines if I get married after a divorce?
It depends. Since the Philippines has no divorce law, a second marriage can be considered bigamous even after getting divorced abroad. Your divorce order (which is a foreign judgment) may need to be recognized by a Philippine court. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified lawyer for a full discussion.
Will my divorce in Canada be recognized in the Philippines?
It depends. Since there is no divorce law in the Philippines, divorce is recognized only for non-Filipino citizens. Your divorce may be recognized in the Philippines if you are no longer a Filipino citizen. This is a complicated topic involving conflicts of international laws. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified lawyer for a full discussion.
Is it cheaper to get a divorce in Canada than to get an annulment in the Philippines?
Generally, yes. While costs vary depending on several factors such as your choice of lawyer, getting a divorce order in Canada is relatively inexpensive.
Do I need to get divorced before I can be in another relationship?
No. Getting separated from a spouse or being in another relationship is a personal decision. It is not affected by whether you are divorced.
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