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Divorce and annulment in the Philippines: An explainer

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - CDN Digital | May 30,2024 - 10:45 AM

EXPLAINER: Annulment vs. divorce

CEBU CITY, Philippines – On top of investigations relating to Chinese offshore gambling operations, all eyes are on the Senate for another and equally important matter – the divorce bill.

If enacted, it will effectively reinstate the concept of divorce – or the complete dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.

While it swiftly passed the House of Representatives, the proposed law seemed to have come to a hitch in the Senate, where it is currently under deliberation.


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This is not the first time the divorce bill was introduced in the Philippine Congress.

The last time a divorce bill had cleared final reading was during the 17th Congress in 2016, but it languished in the Senate.

In fact, the current Senate version of the divorce bill, Senate Bill (SB) No. 2443—filed by Hontiveros, Tulfo, Padilla, Cayetano and Marcos—hurdled the committee level last year for the first time since 1986 but has yet to move forward.

In the meantime, the current divorce bill has spawned not only fruitful discussions between the pro and anti-divorce factions. But also, satires and memes on the internet.

However, sometimes people often find themselves confused in the flurry of legal terms surrounding divorce as well as other existing options to nullify and terminate marriages.

For this explainer, CDN Digital reached out to two Cebu-based lawyers to shed light on the entire debacle regarding the divorce bill.

Separation, termination of marriages

While both seek to dissolve marriages, annulment and divorce are two completely different things, according to lawyers Amando Virgil Ligutan, a high-profiled lawyer from SALiGAL, and Fionah Bojos, co-founder of Bojos Law Office (previously Lepiten & Bojos Law Offices).

The difference between annulment and divorce, as defined by the Divorce Bill being proposed before the Senate, lies in the finer details.

Annulment is one of the ways under Philippine law in which married couples in the country can terminate their marriage. The others are nullity and legal separation.

And each has its own definition and set of grounds.

But for annulment, it seeks to nullify and void the marriage. Some of the grounds for annulment included fraud, consent through force, intimidation, or undue influence, physical incapacity to consummate marriage, sexually transmitted diseases, and psychological incapacity.

Annulment also acknowledges that the union existed – unlike nullity that basically declares the marriage null and void from the beginning.

When annulled, the couple then can re-marry. Their children are also considered legitimate before the eyes of the law if they successfully prove that they were conceived or born before the annulment was implemented.

The most preferred route for distressed couples seeking to end their relationship is through annulment. But doing so can be a big challenge.

“It is not easy to get annulled,” said Bojos.

Challenges in annulment

Processing an annulment takes years and costs a lot of money, Ligutan said.

“From my observation, the going rate right now, for acceptance fees alone is P200,000. And that’s just the acceptance fee,” he said.

Additionally, what makes annulment difficult is that its grounds, according to lawyers Bojos and Ligutan, are narrow and limited like psychological incapacity, which they cited as one of the biggest challenges for married couples seeking to annul their marriage.

In order to be granted annulment, either spouse must prove that the other no longer has sound mind to continue their partnership – and it usually involved hiring not only a lawyer but also a psychologist.

Aside from finding a psychologist, the couple also need to tap in witnesses to further prove it.

“And it involves family members, childhood friends, high school classmates, best friends,” Ligutan said.

With family and close friends involved, more often than not, the situation can become messier and more chaotic than expected, he added.

Other means

Both Ligutan and Bojos shared the same sentiments that the existing choices in the law to terminate a marriage, aside from annulment, are restrictive.

“The grounds? They’re cast in stone… They’re unusual experiences you find from a married couple,” Ligutan explained.

For example, legal separation, which only allows the couple to go on their separate ways without nullifying their marriage and therefore cannot remarry.

“(In legal separation), you’re living separately but you’re still married on paper. And you already have separate families… To me, it’s anomalous, unfair and artificial,” said Ligutan.


But if divorce be enacted once again in the Philippines, the burden for married couples to ask and prove to the court why they should terminate their marriage will be lighter.

Because in divorce, couples are provided with more ‘reasonable grounds’, and without the need to find a psychologist, said Bojos.

“And not many people, who want to get separated, can prove that sometimes, it’s just really irreconcilable differences; that they have fallen out of love,” she added.

Some of the grounds for an absolute divorce in the Divorce Bill included those under nullity, legal separation and annulment.

Aside from psychological incapacity, a couple can dissolve their marriage if they and/or any of their child experience physical violence or grossly abusive conduct; physical violence or moral pressure to compel to change religious or political affiliation; and attempt to corrupt or induce to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement, to name a few.

Overall, divorce serves as a better and more realistic solution for couples seeking to end a dysfunctional marriage, Ligutan pointed out.

“The grounds for divorce bill (under the Divorce Bill) are more attuned to actual experiences, of what’s happening in dysfunctional marriages,” he explained. / with reports from the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

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