Dear PAO,

My sister was married to a foreign citizen but did not change her nationality and remains to be a Filipino. After 26 years of marriage, they filed for divorce which was eventually granted. She now wants to settle in the Philippines and have their divorce recognized here. She already obtained the original copy of the divorce decree authenticated by our Philippine Embassy and a photocopy of the law (with English translation) allowing divorce in her husband's country where they got married. Will those be enough? A friend told her that she needs to have their divorce acknowledged here and that those are two of the most important things that must be shown in court. Thank you and more power.

Beth

Dear Beth,

Filipinos who marry foreign nationals and who thereafter obtain a divorce decree abroad must have such decree recognized by our courts so that the severance of their marital ties will also be accepted in our jurisdiction.

As with any supplication filed in our courts, a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce requires the presentation of vital evidence such as the proof that a divorce was indeed decreed in favor of the parties and the foreign law allowing such legal remedy. As explained by our Supreme Court in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Jocelyn Asusano Kikuchi (G.R. No. 243646, June 22, 2022, Ponente: Honorable Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando):

"Under Article 26 of the Executive Order No. 209, series of 1987, as amended, or the Family Code of the Philippines, a divorce between a foreigner and a Filipino may be recognized in the Philippines as long as it was validly obtained according to the foreign spouse's national law, viz.:

"Art. 26. All marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country, except those prohibited under Articles 35 (1), (4), (5) and (6), 3637 and 38.

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"Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law. (Emphasis supplied)

"Before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by the court, the party pleading it must first prove the fact of divorce and its conformity to the foreign law allowing it. As both of these purport to be official acts of a sovereign authority, the required proof are their official publications or copies attested by the officers having legal custody thereof, pursuant to Section 24, Rule 132 of the Rules of Court."

Corollary, your sister may use the original copy of the divorce decree which she and her foreign spouse obtained abroad given that the same was already authenticated by our Philippine Embassy. However, it is submitted that a mere photocopy of the divorce law of the country where they got married and secured their divorce will not suffice. What must be submitted in court are official records which are admissible in evidence. The same is true even if the copy of the law presented is in English translation. As explained by the Supreme Court:

"Further, in Arreza vs. Toyo, the Court noted that the translations by Eibun-Horei-Sha, Inc. (the publisher of the document submitted by Jocelyn) are not advertised as source of official translations of Japanese laws.

"Not being an official translation, the document submitted by Jocelyn does not prove the existing law on divorce in Japan. Unfortunately, without such evidence, there is nothing on record to establish that the divorce between Jocelyn and Fumio was validly obtained and is consistent with the Japanese law on divorce."

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]