One of the common issues married couples face with OFW partners is having illicit affairs. Many times, this ends up with broken relationships. If you are in a situation where you have fully decided to separate from your partner, this article will guide you through the legal process. As per the latest update, divorce for married couples is only allowed in the Philippines if one of the spouses is a foreign national. If both of the couple are Filipinos, we have an annulment procedure. In this article, a lawyer explains how an annulment case can be filed while you are abroad.
Many overseas Filipinos have sacrificed leaving their families in the Philippines in order to work abroad. Oftentimes, the spouses left behind to take care of their children. It takes a lot of effort to keep a relationship despite the distance. However, problems arise and things do not always end up well. In case you may need to annul your marriage while abroad, below are some frequently asked questions about the annulment process:
- Can I file for annulment of marriage in the Philippines while I am in Dubai?
- Are you sure you want to end your marriage?
- What will your lawyer do?
- Where should the annulment case be filed?
- How do you prove residence?
- Can the annulment case be conducted remotely?
- Do I need to be in the Philippines during the trial of the case?
Can I file for annulment of marriage in the Philippines while I am in Dubai?
Yes, you can file a case to annul your marriage even if you are not in the Philippines.
If your lawyer follows the correct rules of procedure, the case can be filed with a Philippine court even while you are abroad.
Are you sure you want to end your marriage?
First things first, you have to be sure.
Ending a marriage is a serious undertaking. It can take years to finish. It affects family relations as well as property.
Think clearly about what you want and why before you decide.
Once you are sure, you will need a lawyer to file the case.
What will your lawyer do?
The lawyer will interview you to clarify the legal and factual grounds for your annulment case.
You can communicate with him over email and video conference through Zoom / Viber / Whatsapp or other social media even if you are not in the Philippines.
The lawyer will schedule to have you interviewed by a psychologist over a video call. A psychological report will be prepared. It will form an important part of what should be submitted to the court.
The lawyer and the psychologist will also interview your family and friends in the Philippines who can testify about the problems of the marriage.
From these interviews, the lawyer will draft the petition to annul the marriage, the affidavits of witnesses, and also the authorization to appear on your behalf at the annulment case.
These documents will be emailed to you. You then print your documents and have them notarized at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai or at the Philippine Embassy in UAE in Abu Dhabi (whichever is nearer).
Next, send the documents to your lawyer’s office in the Philippines via DHL or FedEx. He can then file them with the correct court.
Where should the annulment case be filed?
The annulment case should be filed at the Regional Trial Court of the city or province where one of the spouses has lived for the last 6 months.
This means that it can be filed from abroad as long as one spouse lives in the Philippines. Even if you are not here, your case can be filed in the city or province where your spouse still resides.
Following the basic residency requirement is very important in an annulment case. A case filed at the wrong venue will be dismissed by the court before it even goes to trial.
How do you prove residence?
The residence cannot be an invention. Your lawyer will need to show proof that the addresses are true.
The court will require the following proof of your own address: (1) sworn certification of residency (with house location sketch) issued by the barangay [or its equivalent if you live abroad]; (2) the lawyer’s sworn statement that he verified your residency and that you had been living there for at least 6 months before filing the case; and (3) any of the following:
- Utility bills in your name for at least 6 months prior;
- Government-issued I.D. or Company I.D., with your photograph and address issued at least 6 months prior;
- Notarized lease contract, if available, and/or receipts for rental payments (showing your address) for at least 6 months prior;
- Transfer Certificate of Title, or Tax Declaration, or Deed of Sale or the like, in your name.
The Regional Trial Court will send summons to your spouse at the address you provide. The court will dismiss the case outright if it discovers that your spouse does not actually live in that city or province.
But if the court confirms that your husband or wife does live in that address, then the case can continue.
Can the annulment case be conducted remotely?
The Supreme Court has allowed trial courts to conduct hearings through video conferences. Because of the COVID pandemic, the courts are more open to hearings without personal presence in the courtroom.
Lawyers and litigants can now appear in court through their computer screens. The judge himself might not even be physically present in the courtroom while he presides over the remote hearings.
Do I need to be in the Philippines during the trial of the case?
Most of the court hearings do not strictly require your presence. There are times, however, when you will be called to the court. For example, your testimony requires at least one appearance in court.
It may become possible to do this through remote video conferences while you are abroad. Due to the pandemic, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Supreme Court have discussed a system where the witness abroad can testify from abroad through remote video conferences.
This is still being worked out. How the system will be applied by the courts may depend on the course of the pandemic.
What is clear for now is that the case can be filed and move forward in court even while you are overseas. The case can proceed even without you present at every single hearing.
This is good because annulment cases can take years. Months can go by between hearing dates. Your life and work abroad need not be put on hold while the case continues in the Philippines.
About the Author: Atty. Francesco Britanico
Atty. Francesco Britanico is a lawyer in the Philippines with much experience working with clients based outside the country. He can be contacted at www.lawyerphilippines.org