Annulment, Divorce and Legal Separation in the Philippines: Questions and Answers

There are many questions relating to annulment and divorce in the Philippines, and many of the concerns of our readers had already been addressed in previous articles. Nevertheless, to consolidate everything for everyone’s easy reference, here are the FAQs on annulment and divorce in the Philippines:

Is divorce allowed under Philippine laws?

No, divorce is not allowed in the Philippines. However, there are certain instances wherein the divorce secured abroad by the foreigner-spouse, and even by former Filipinos, are recognized under Philippine laws. More discussion here (Judicial Recognition of a Foreign Divorce Decree).

Would it make any difference if I marry abroad where divorce is allowed?

No. Filipinos are covered by this prohibition based on the “nationality principle”, regardless of wherever they get married (and regardless where they get a decree of divorce). Discussions relating to Overseas Filipinos or OFWs are transferred in Part V.

Is “annulment” different from a “declaration of nullity” of marriage?

Yes. In essence, “annulment” applies to a marriage that is considered valid, but there are grounds to nullify it. A “declaration of nullity” of marriage, on the other hand, applies to marriages that are void or invalid from the very beginning. In other words, it was never valid in the first place.

Also, an action for annulment of voidable marriages may prescribe, while an action for declaration of nullity of marriage does not prescribe.

So, if a marriage is void from the very beginning (void ab initio), there’s no need to file anything in court?

For purposes of remarriage, there must be a court order declaring the marriage as null and void. Entering into a subsequent marriage without such court declaration means that: (a) the subsequent marriage is void; and (b) the parties open themselves to a possible charge of bigamy.

What if no marriage certificate could be found?

Justice Sempio-Dy, in the “Handbook of on the Family Code of the Philippines” (p. 26, 1997 reprint), says: “The marriage certificate is not an essential or formal requisite of marriage without which the marriage will be void. An oral marriage is, therefore, valid, and failure of a party to sign the marriage certificate or the omission of the solemnizing officer to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the proper local civil registrar, does not invalidate the marriage. Also the mere fact that no record of marriage can be found, does not invalidate the marriage provided all the requisites for its validity are present.” (Citations omitted)

Can I file a petition (annulment or declaration of absolute nullity of marriage) even if I am in a foreign country?

Yes, the rules recognize and allow the filing of the petition by Filipinos who are overseas.

What are the grounds for annulment?

1. Lack of parental consent in certain cases. If a party is 18 years or over, but below 21, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of the parents/guardian. However, the marriage is validated if, upon reaching 21, the spouses freely cohabited with the other and both lived together as husband and wife.

2. Insanity. A marriage may be annulled if, at the time of marriage, either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife.

3. Fraud. The 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 as husband and wife. Fraud includes: (i) non-disclosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude; (ii) concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of the marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband; (iii) concealment of sexually transmissible disease or STD, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage; or (iv) concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage. However, no other misrepresentation or deceit as to character, health, rank, fortune or chastity shall constitute such fraud as will give grounds for action for the annulment of marriage.

4. Force, intimidation or undue influence. If the consent of either party was obtained by any of these means, except in cases wherein the force, intimidation or undue influence having disappeared or ceased, the complaining party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife.

5. Impotence. At the time of marriage, either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable. Impotence is different from being infertile.

6. STD. If, at the time of marriage, either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable. If the STD is not serious or is curable, it may still constitute fraud (see No. 3 above).

What if a spouse discovers that his/her spouse is a homosexual or is violent, can he/she ask for annulment?

Homosexuality or physical violence, by themselves, are not sufficient to nullify a marriage. At the very least, however, these grounds may be used as basis for legal separation.

How is “legal separation” different from annulment?

The basic difference is this – in legal separation, the spouses are still considered married to each other, and, thus, may not remarry.

Is legal separation faster than annulment?

Not necessarily. The petitioner in a legal separation, just like in an annulment, is still required to prove the allegations contained in the petition. More important is the mandatory 6-month “cooling off” period in legal separation cases. This is not required in annulment or declaration of nullity cases. The court is required to schedule the pre-trial conference not earlier than six (6) months from the filing of the petition. This period is meant to give the spouses an opportunity for reconciliation.

What are the grounds for legal separation?

1. Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner.

2. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation.

3. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement.

4. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned.

5. Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent.

6. Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent.

7. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad.

8. Sexual infidelity or perversion.

9. Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner.

10. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

The term “child” shall include a child by nature or by adoption.

Should I file a petition for legal separation, can I use my own sexual infidelity as a ground?

It is interesting to note that among the grounds for legal separation, as listed above, only “sexual infidelity or perversion” is not qualified by the phrase “of the respondent” or “by respondent”. This may give the impression that the sexual infidelity of the petitioner, or the one who filed the petition, may be used as a ground in legal separation. We must consider, however, that legal separation is filed by the innocent spouse or the “aggrieved party” against the guilty spouse.

What happens if after learning that your husband (or wife) is unfaithful (No. 8 above), you still co-habitate with him/her?

This may be construed as condonation, which is a defense in actions for legal separation. In addition to condonation, the following are the defenses in legal separation:

1. Consent.
2. Connivance (in the commission of the offense or act constituting the ground for legal separation).
3. Mutual guilt (both parties have given ground for legal separation).
4. Collusion (to obtain decree of legal separation).
5. Prescription (5 years from the occurence of the cause for legal separation).

If you’re separated from your spouse for 4 years, is that a sufficient ground for annulment?

No. De facto separation is not a ground for annulment. However, the absence of 2 or 4 years, depending on the circumstances, may be enough to ask the court for a declaration of presumptive death of the “absent spouse”, in which case the petitioner may again re-marry. See Can someone remarry without going to court due to absence or separation?

What are the grounds for declaration of nullity of marriage?

1. Minority (those contracted by any party below 18 years of age even with the consent of parents or guardians).

2. Lack of authority of solemnizing officer (those solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages, unless such marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to do so).

3. Absence of marriage license (except in certain cases).

4. Bigamous or polygamous marriages (except in cases where the other spouse is declared as presumptively dead).

5. Mistake in identity (those contracted through mistake of one contracting party as to the identity of the other).

6. After securing a judgement of annulment or of asolute nullity of mariage, the parties, before entering into the subsequent marriage, failed to record with the appropriate registry the: (i) partition and distribute the properties of the first marriage; and (ii) delivery of the children’s presumptive legitime.

7. Incestous marriages (between ascendants and descendants of any degree, between brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half blood).

8. Void by reason of public policy. Marriages between (i) collateral blood relatives whether legitimate or illegitimate, up to the fourth civil degree; (ii) step-parents and step-children; (iii) parents-in-law and children-in-law; (iv) adopting parent and the adopted child; (v) surviving spouse of the adopting parent and the adopted child; (vi) surviving spouse of the adopted child and the adopter; (vii) an adopted child and a legitimate child of the adopter; (viii) adopted children of the same adopter; and (ix) parties where one, with the intention to marry the other, killed that other person’s spouse, or his or her own spouse.

9. Psychological Incapacity. Psychological incapacity, which a ground for annulment of marriage, contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations; not a mere refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less, ill will, on the part of the errant spouse. Irreconcilable differences, conflicting personalities, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, physical abuse, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity or perversion, and abandonment, by themselves, also do not warrant a finding of psychological incapacity. We already discussed the guidelines and illustrations of psychological incapacity, including a case involving habitual lying, as well as the steps and procedure in filing a petition.

Please note, however, that there are still other grounds to declare a marriage as null and void.


Browse through the comments below to check if your questions are similar to that of others. Other common issues are consolidated in Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Costs in seeking an Annulment, and other related posts. You can check the Related Posts at the bottom of each post.

807 thoughts on “Annulment, Divorce and Legal Separation in the Philippines: Questions and Answers

  1. Mary Ann

    atty. i am separated for 10 years now,we had civil marriage but we lived together only for 5 days, he want back to US and never come back,no communication then for 10yrs. no news if he is still alive.what is the easiest way to make our marriage null and void?
    thank you.

  2. Rj

    Hello there atty.

    If i see a picture of my wife with another guy(japanese citizen) kissing each other on her own cellphone. Can it be a evidence for me to file for annulment?

    Thank you in advance atty.

  3. charmielyn

    yung sakin po. .yung asawa nang kinakasama ko sila dalawa nag kasal sa mayor tapos edad nang lalaki 17 tapos sa babae naman 19. tapos parents nang lalaki hindi pinapasok sa kasalanan. .kahit perma man lang wala. .tapos yung kinaha nang lalaki yung cenomar nla kasal cla pero madami na naiba. .hindi tugma. .yung birthdate nang lalaki. . ano po bang dapat naman gawin plsss lang po pakisagot. .kasi pareho na sila may mga pamilya. .

  4. jhing

    sir good day ako po ay divorce sa isang japanese citizen 2011 po kmi nag divorce..ang passport ko po ay sa apelyido prn ng x-husband ko…gusto ko na po sana ibalik sa pagkadalaga kc gusto ko po magabroad…ano po ba dapat kong gawin…sana po matulungan nyo ko pano ko po mapapalitan ung name sa passport ko…

  5. jhing

    Hi sir….divorce po ako sa japan sa isang hapon ang passport ko po japanse prn ang surname ko…gusto ko po sana maibalik s pagkasingle at maparenew.. 2011 po kmi nagdivorce at bumalik dto sa pinas.. ano po ba una ko gagawin at saan government agency ako dpat pumunta…ano po bang process ang dpt kong gawin…please po help me sir…

  6. Zaynab

    Atty. Fred,
    Good day attorney. I’m a Filipina-Muslim married to a Muslim American. He and his ex wife was into a common law marriage in Rhode Island. They got separated and had the divorce islamically, which is not recognized by the US law. We were not aware that Rhode island is one of the states in the US that consider common law marriage as legal . We got married islamically last April 2015 in Mindanao because we didn’t know that his previous relationship is considered legal by the US law. They both decided to file for a. No fault divorce because my husband is already fulfilling his responsibility of paying for child support since the day they got separated and as per record from the government, he is compliant. The divorce was granted and he have settled all the financial required to him by the court. His finalized/divorce decree will be released on May 1. My question is about our Islamic marriage rites, is it considered as void because the ceremony was held before his divorce? How can we make it legal? We are planning to get married on June in a civil court to make our marriage legal. I cannot request for a CENOMAR because our Islamic wedding rites was filed at PSA Mindanao.
    I’m looking forward for your legal advice attorney. Thanks you so much and may Allah bless you.

  7. Dina


    I want to ask paano po magfile ng legal separation? My husband is a drug addiction may anak po kami 3yo girl

  8. Mary Grace

    Atty. Nung ikasal po kami sa judge sabi po ng judge samin we have 4years pra mapawalang bisa ung kasal namin. Feeling ko nagbibiro sya. Pero after 2 and half years of being married, i wish hindi sya nagbibiro (judge). Is it possible na mapawalang bisa ang civil marriage namin hassle free?

  9. Leona

    Hello sir i was wondering if my boyfriend is legally married or not. He meet a Philippine women in canada and they got married. She retunted to the phillipnes and found out while married to him she was already married in the phillipines was the marriage legal. We want to get married but not sure if we can

  10. Dhel

    Dear Atty Fred,

    I have been problematic about my husband since our first year of marriage. Though he has no vices and a good father, he was and still is emotionally immature and irresponsible, no work and has no intention of working to provide for his family. We’ve been married for 25 yrs and I stayed with him for the sake of my children. Now that my kids are both professionals and can understand the situation, I would like to file an annulment. He is younger than me and still active in sex which causes us to fight all the time because he does it even without my consent. I always feel like I am a rape victim and 25 yrs is enough. Would that suffice to file an annulment? If so, how long will it take and how much would it cost?

    Thank you for the enlightenment and for helping confused and abused wives.

  11. Eila

    We are Christians couple and married in civil only! He is now currently working in Saudi Arabia. Later on my husband decided to convert in Muslim. What about our marriage now?is it still valid since he is now a Muslim and remain me as a christian.

  12. Mays

    Gud day attorney.
    Atty. Ask ko lng po kung sakaling gusto ng lalaki na e annual na ang kasal nya sa kanyang asawa pero ayaw ng fact si lalaki ang may kasalanan kc sya ang naghanap ng kabit at later on gusto nya na pakasalan.
    Wala naman po silang pinag awayan.may anak silang isa.
    Pwede po ba un na eforce nya ang kanyang asawa na makipaghiwalay o may magagawa ba silang legal ng kabit nya?
    Thank you so much atty.


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