Will the Philippines Finally Legalise Divorce?

legalizing marriage

Warmer questions

  1. Are you married?
  2. Is there an expectation for people to marry for life?
  3. What reasons could there be for a couple to look for a divorce?

Reading section

Till death do us part

Divorce −or dissolution of marriage− is the process of ending a marital union. It generally involves the canceling of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple under the rule of law. Divorce laws vary noticeably around the world, but it often requires the sanction of a court or other authority in a legal process, which may entail issues of distribution of property, child custody, alimony, child visitation or supervision, parenting time, child support, among others.

Divorce should not be confused with annulment −which declares the marriage null and void−, with legal separation (a married couple may formalise a de facto separation while remaining legally married) or with de facto separation (spouses informally stop cohabiting).

The only countries that do not allow divorce are the Philippines and Vatican City. In the Philippines, divorce for non-Muslim Filipinos is not legal unless the husband or wife satisfies certain conditions. Vatican City is an ecclesiastical state with no procedure for divorce. Countries that have recently legalised divorce are Paraguay (1991), Colombia (1991), Andorra (1995), Ireland (1996), Chile (2004) and Malta (2011).

Divorce in the UK

Grounds for divorce vary widely from country to country. Under current UK law, in order to get a divorce, it has to be proved that one party is at fault -either through unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or desertion. If that cannot be proved, a couple whose relationship has broken down has to live apart for five years before they can divorce. However, changes to divorce laws in the UK are to be introduced as quickly as possible, according to senior Government ministers. Under these changes, either one or both partners will be able to apply for a divorce and neither will need to provide evidence of misconduct. Also, the couple will not need to live apart before a divorce. Finally, neither side will be able to block the divorce proceedings; the rules will apply to all marriages and civil partnerships.

Questions to consider:

  1. If the Philippines were a Muslim country, would not the ban on divorce be publicly considered as “oppression” and “lack of freedom”?
  2. Filipinos put significant importance on family. Does that mean that this ban finds its roots in culture –and not in Catholicism or political environment?
  3. The practice of parental consent in arranged marriages of girls should be banned worldwide. Girls are condemned to unhappiness. Human trafficking or forced marriage?
  4. According to recent divorce statistics, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Would a ban on divorce be the only way to halt this alarming number?

Vocabulary matching

Match the vocab on the left with the correct definitions on the right.

Vocabulary Definitions
1.Ban a. the act of making an agreement no longer binding and therefore unuseable.
2. Attorney b. a general rule intended to regulate behaviour or thought
3. Couple c.officially or legally prohibit
4. Annulment d. (of ideas, facts, or statements) representing findings or points of view that are so different from each other that they cannot be made compatible
5. Bill e. having no legal context or reason to be enforced
6. Precept f. not valid
7. Secular g.a person appointed to act for another in business or legal matters.
8. Null h.two people who are married, engaged, or otherwise closely associated romantically or sexually. Synonyms: husband and wife, twosome, partners, lovers; informal item: “a honeymoon couple”.
9. Void i. a draft of a proposed law presented to parliament for discussion.
10. Irreconcilable j. (of the clergy) not subject to or bound by religious rule; not belonging to or living in a monastic or other order. Synonyms: nonreligious, areligious

  1. c
  2. g
  3. h
  4. a
  5. i
  6. b
  7. j
  8. e
  9. f
  10. d


Video: Legalising divorce in the Philippines


Before watching the video read the questions below and have a guess, then watch the video above and answer the questions.

  1. In what countries is divorce illegal?
  2. How many married couples are there in the Philippines?
  3. Is divorce banned for the entire population in the Philippines?
  4. Why can Muslims divorce in the Philippines?
  5. What happened in 1950?
  6. Who is Evalyn Ursua?
  7. What does attorney Evalyn Ursua think about divorce in the Philippines?
  8. What are the legal ways for Filipino couples to separate?
  9. What are the prerequisites for an annulment?
  10. What does Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines say in reference to domestic violence, physical or verbal abuse, and irreconcilable differences?
  11. What are the grounds for filing a legal separation?
  12. How much does an annulment cost in the Philippines?
Show Answers
1. The Philippines and Vatican City are the only two countries in the world where divorce is illegal.
2. There are more than forty thousand married couples in the Philippines.
3. No, it is not. Divorce, technically, is not illegal for everyone. For the approximately 5 per cent of the population who identifies as Muslim, in the overwhelmingly Catholic state divorce, divorce is allowed.
4. That is because Muslim Filipinos adhere to a separate legal system called Code of Personal Muslim Laws.
5. A few years after the Philippines gained independence from the U.S., the civil code of the Philippines banned divorce again in 1950.
6. She wrote the original divorce bill that has been adapted into the current proposal moving through the courts. She says the Catholic Church wields significant influence over the state.
7. She states that the Philippines is a secular society for there is a constitutional separation of church and state. Consequently, the Catholic Church should not impose its own precepts and morals on everyone.
8. There are only a few ways for Filipino couples to separate. The first option is an annulment.
9. People seeking an annulment have to meet certain requirements that include: impotence, undisclosed STDs, lack of parental consent, and a few others.
10. Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines states that these conditions do not meet the standards for an annulment. Under a legal separation, couples can live separately and divide their possessions, but the agreement does not legally end the marriage and, therefore, does not allow either party to remarry.
11. Grounds for filing a legal separation include physical abuse and infidelity, among others. To declare a marriage null and void, the couple must prove that a valid marriage never legally existed −that it was considered invalid from the beginning.
12. It starts at around 250,000 Philippine pesos, or approximately 4,800 U.S. dollars. That is hardly less than the average family income in the Philippines for an entire year, which is about 5,000 U.S. dollars.

Advantages of having a legal divorce

  1. Emotional Independence: Divorce gives you another chance to live your life in your own way; after a divorce, you will be able to restart your life with or without another partner. You can be happy again.
  2. Mature Children: A child who goes through his/her parents’ divorce may mature quicker and develop responsibility at a younger age. Likewise, children will benefit from divorce if there is a high level of conflict in their parents’ marriage. It is unhealthy for children to be around parents who fight and criticise each other all the time
  3. Personal Growth: An advantage to divorce is the personal growth a person goes through after the event. Divorced individuals have to become self-sufficient and cope with the pressures of everyday life by themselves. After divorce, individuals can develop the personal skills that can help them work build a better quality of life for themselves and their children.
  4. Health Advantages: Once a divorce is final and as time goes by, people frequently find that their health tends to improve for the long-term.

Disadvantages of having a legal divorce

  1. Couple’s Psychological Health: During and after the process of a divorce, adults can suffer a negative psychological balance, including high levels of anxiety, unhappiness, and depression.
  2. Children’s Psychological Health: Divorce does not just affect the couple who is splitting; children feel the impact, too. A child of divorce may develop commitment issues and doubt his ability to marry. Some may also present emotional pain and suffering −anxiety, lower self-esteem, depression, violence, and insecurity− because of the break-up of their family.
  3. Tighter Finances: Covering the cost of maintaining two separate households will be significantly more expensive than your shared marital home. After a divorce is finalised, you may be looking forward to your newfound freedom as a single person, but your finances could limit your ability to enjoy the life you have been dreaming of.
  4. Emotional Baggage: Emotional baggage from a previous marriage can make it more difficult to find someone new. Particularly when there are children involved, baggage can make dating more difficult. New partners may not possess the necessary understanding or patience while you sort through the healing process.

Potential debating topics

  1. The Philippines is a so-called democracy and yet divorce is banned. It is not a democracy at all.
  2. The Philippines is a true democracy. The divorce ban is a cultural trait of the country, not a political one.
  3. The Family Code of the Philippines establishes despicable conditions in order to get an annulment.
  4. Philippine law does not allow divorces; however, it does allow for legal separation, annulment, and marriage “voids” under the Family Code of the Philippines.
  5. Marriage keeps families together and creates a more responsible society. Divorce should be banned worldwide.
  6. A ban on divorce infringes human rights, fundamental freedoms, and human dignity. This ban should not be allowed anywhere.

Final remarks

There are a number of pros and cons of divorce, no matter what the unique situation may be. Divorce divides a family financially and emotionally, which may improve life for all −or exchange one set of problems for another. A divorcee can look forward to more freedom and happiness in a newly single lifestyle, but it will be balanced with more accountabilities and tighter finances. By knowing in advance what is there to gain or lose by finalising a divorce, individuals can begin to appropriately prepare and act accordingly.