wedding cakeFrom time to time readers from this website ask me things about separation and annulment in the Philippines. Often they are foreigners wanting to get married to a Filipina who is separated from her husband, sometimes already for many years. The young couple likes to get married but according to Philippine law this is not possible.

The following is a story from someone who wanted to share his ‘adventures’ of having a marriage annulled. I re-wrote it the way it is now so it is understandable and gives a good idea of the difficulties one has to face when starting an annulment procedure. All private details have been deleted.

Many Filipino men and women have been thinking it was the right thing to do – marry after college or high school, have a family, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, the union does not always last.

There are many reasons for a separation. Sometimes one of the spouses has enough of it, leaves the house and never returns, leaving the partner and eventual children alone.
A man often leaves his house for another woman and moves in with her.
Sometimes the separation is because of a continuing physical abuse.
And sometimes it is a mutual agreement to split up. Both spouses know that a divorce is not possible, so re-marrying will not be possible unless an annulment case will be started.

A legal separation is an agreement where both parties split their properties and start living separately. They can not re-marry but may call themselves: legally separated.
If the spouses have been married in church, which is very common in the Philippines, a civil annulment needs to be followed by a church annulment or separation if the spouses like to get married again in church. But that’s another story. This story is about the civil procedure only.

broken marriageOf course lawyers are involved to start an annulment procedure. Find a good one who is specialized in this kind of procedures. A foreigner should not show his face to this lawyer because it will raise the price a lot. Foreigners have to pay the so-called ‘white skin’ tax; and believe me, your copy of TurboTax Online is not going to inform you of it. Let the ‘to be divorced’ person handle it. Ask a few lawyers about their rates, how much the whole procedure might cost, ask for a possible time frame and what steps are to be taken and how much each step costs.

When the procedure starts a psychological evaluation of both spouses needs to be done. If the other spouse cannot be traced new problems arise. Your lawyer will know the procedure in such case. This story is about two people who do not live far from each other and even see each other from time to time because of the children involved.
Several meetings will be held, many court hearings need to be attended and if you are lucky the annulment will be granted after a few years.
Psychological it might be a stressful period, not only of the long time it takes, but also because of the endless repeating same stories and paperwork what needs to be done.

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You probably have heard stories that filing for annulment is expensive and only those with money can afford it to get out of that so called ‘marriage’. If you cannot afford the money or you do not like to wait a few years, you are stuck in it.

In general the one who files for the annulment is paying for it. For the above mentioned psychological evaluation one should prepare something between 40 and 50 thousand. After finishing this, both partners will be psychologically incapacitated, which is an acceptable ground for annulment.

A civil annulment, which is completely different from legal separation, voids the civil marriage and allows both parties to remarry in civil ceremonies.
Cost for this is more than thrice the psychological evaluation. Count an amount of 150,000 pesos or more.

Now you have an acceptable ground for annulment: you are psychologically incapacitated, it is time to file the annulment case in a Family court where you live. Civil annulment cases are always handled by family courts.
In this stage it is really necessary to have a good and caring lawyer who is able to listen to you and is able to get you a good and acceptable settlement.
The ‘still a couple’ will be asked to reconsider the procedure by the Office of the Solicitor General and to try to keep on living as a married couple. It is their task to try to make the spouses reconsider their decision by asking them to go to counseling, therapies and retreats. They take their time hoping that the couple decides to give the marriage another try.
Always keep in mind that, even if you have spend already a lot of money, the annulment might not be granted and be prepared that it might take several years to have a final decision.

But let’s say that after waiting a long time you receive the message that the annulment is final and granted, many problems only start at that moment. Getting married in a civil procedure will be possible now, but not in a church. To be separated in church is a different long-lasting (and costly) procedure done through the diocese where you have been married.

annulment decreeOne of the ‘court orders’ is that both spouses are not allowed anymore to use each others name. So the papers need to be ‘fixed’.
All documents you have like passport, bank accounts, id cards and more of that have the name stated of both spouses, or just the wrong spouse’s name. To change these is also a time-consuming process. If properties like a house are involved, the title needs to be changed.
Your bank, for example, needs a copy of the annulment papers. And because this might be a thick file of papers, start making copies! An easier way is to close the account and open a new one (in another branch).
Also BIR, SSS, Pag-Ibig and if you have a job: your employer, all need to change your married name into your single name. Be prepared to give them copies of the annulment file.

To change the name in the passport you should not forget to go to a NSO office and get a “cancelled marriage certificate”. In this certificate it states that the marriage never happened. When you have this, you may apply for a new passport.
The same certificate is needed to get married again.

A last advice: try to be ‘friends’ with the ‘ex’. It will make the procedure easier and much faster. Make peace first with him or her.