Foreign Divorce

Let us talk about judicial recognition of foreign divorce in the Philippines. Marriages celebrated in the Philippines are recorded in the Philippine civil registry, and cannot be changed or corrected without a judicial order. Thus, Filipinos must file and undergo a costly annulment in order to dissolve their marriages (Read: Annulment Process in the Philippines 2020). To avoid this complication, some Filipinos or foreigners married to Filipinos file for divorce abroad, because the Philippines is the last country in the world where divorce is still illegal, apart from the Vatican City. However, foreign divorce decrees cannot simply be submitted to the Philippine civil registry –– either party must file for a “Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce”.

The goal of judicial recognition of foreign divorce is to change the civil status of the parties in the Philippine civil registry without undergoing the process of annulment.

Let us address the common questions on this matter.

What must be the citizenship of the (ex) spouses during or after the divorce?

  • One spouse must be an alien or a non-Filipino at the time the the divorce decree is obtained (See: Republic vs. Manalo, G.R. No. 221027, April 24, 2018, citing Republic vs. Orbecido III, G.R. No. 154380 October 5, 2005). Hence, one can file for judicial recognition of foreign divorce, as long as one spouse is an alien at the time of the divorce decree. This means that (ex) spouses who married each other while they were both Filipinos – but one spouse was naturalized as a foreigner – can file for judicial recognition of foreign divorce.

Who must initiate the divorce proceedings abroad?

  • Either party, BUT it is crucial that one spouse must already be an alien at the time of the divorce decree.
  • This is an extremely helpful development for Filipinos. In fact, this was widely documented by major news outlets. ABS-CBN News even reported this matter:

“Voting 10-3, magistrates of the high court ruled that a divorce obtained by a Filipino citizen against a foreign spouse overseas is valid in the Philippines.

In the case of Marelyn Tanedo Manalo, the court noted Article 26 (2) of the Family Code which provides that “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 likewise have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”

Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said prior to Tuesday’s ruling, a divorce abroad is only considered valid here in the Philippines when it is initiated by the foreign spouse.” (Read:Supreme Court says foreign divorce valid in PH)
  • Prior to the landmark decision of Republic vs. Manalo decided last April 24, 2018, Filipinos had to wait for their alien spouse to initiate divorce proceedings. Now, they are empowered to initiate divorce abroad (just make sure that your spouse is already an alien at the time of the divorce decree!).
Who must file for judicial recognition of foreign divorce in the Philippines?
  • Either spouse. The other spouse would be made as a Respondent in the Petition, in addition to the Republic of the Philippines. It is submitted that both spouses can become co-petitioners, because the end goal is to change the civil registry records. However, co-Petitioner spouses are unprecedented as far as judicial recognition of foreign divorce is concerned. It is advisable to be conservative and follow the trend of one spouse filing the petition.

Where must the petition be filed?

  • The petition for recognition of foreign divorce is filed under Rule 108 of the Rules of Court (See: Corpuz vs. Sto. Tomas, G.R. No. 186571, August 11, 2010). Thus, it must be filed at the Regional Trial Court of the province where the civil registry is located.

What are the essential documentary evidence?

  • Philippine marriage certificate/record if the marriage was in the country.
  • Official marriage certificate/record from the foreign country, if the marriage was celebrated abroad.
  • Report of Marriage of a Filipino married abroad (if one was filed with the DFA).
  • Authenticated Divorce Decree. The divorce decree, as a matter of evidence, must be translated to English and certified by a competent authority of the State issuing the decree.
  • Authenticated proof of foreign divorce law.
    • The divorce law must be a copy that is certified by a law librarian in the State where the divorce was issued as a copy of the divorce law of the said State.

Side note: What does “Authenticated” mean?

Authentication is a process to ensure that a foreign document is genuinely issued by a competent authority of another State. Put simply, authentication warrants the signatures and the seal of the office that issued it, so it can be used in the Philippines without entertaining any doubt that it is forged.

  • Proofs of citizenship.

How do you authenticate a foreign document? There are two methods.

  • The first option is to apply for an “Apostille” in the state where you got divorced. You do this if the State is a party to the Apostille Convention. Check out the Hague Apostille Country List to see if it is applicable to your situation.
  • The second option is to undergo the traditional authentication procedure, if the issuing country is not a party to the Apostille Convention. The foreign document must be authenticated by the Philippine Embassy/Consulate. It is advisable to contact the relevant embassy/consulate to ask about this process, as it may vary per jurisdiction.

If you need help in getting your foreign divorce recognized in the Philippines, you may email the attorney at

Sanchez & Bongalon is headed by Pampanga lawyers in Angeles City, Philippines. You may contact the attorneys at +63 927 423 1703 (Globe) | +63 949 717 9229 (Smart) for any queries. If you wish for a personal consult, send a text or email to set a meeting at Workspace45, 2nd Floor, HTPT Building, MacArthur Highway, Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines 2009.

You may also browse other legal articles, as written by a Pampanga lawyer in Angeles City.