Foreigner-Spouse May File a Case in the Philippines to Recognize a Foreign Judgment Voiding a Marriage by Reason of Bigamy

The interplay of relationships in matters pertaining to marriage may result to challenges in enforcing rights in Philippine courts. In mixed marriages, wherein one of the spouses is a Philippine citizen and the other spouse is a foreigner, the Filipino spouse can file the appropriate petition in Philippine courts to have the foreign divorce decree recognized in the Philippines. This course of action is necessary to enable the Filipino to remarry; otherwise, the Filipino may be charged with bigamy. The alien spouse can remarry, pursuant to his/her national law, by reason of the divorce. [See also Mixed Marriages and Divorce]

Cases involving marriage or the family are usually complicated. Throwing in two marriages, three parties, and two national laws into the mix hardly qualifies as a simple case. Take a situation wherein a Filipina is married a Japanese citizen in the Philippines. While the first marriage was subsisting, the Filipina contracts a second marriage with another Japanese citizen. The second marriage was declared void in Japan by reason of bigamy. 

The first husband, a Japanese national, sought to have the decree, secured in Japan, declaring the second marriage void, recognized in the Philippines.  The trial court dismissed the petition, on the ground that the Japanese husband has no personality to file an action in Philippine courts. Only the husband or the wife in the second marriage may file the appropriate action pertaining to their marriage. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court. 

RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN DIVORCE DECREE

A petition to recognize a foreign judgment declaring a marriage void may be recognized in the Philippines. It does not require relitigation as if it were a new petition for declaration of nullity of marriage. Philippine courts exercise limited review on foreign judgments and can only recognize the foreign judgment as a fact according to the rules of evidence Rule 39, in relation to Rule 132, Rules of Court). Once a foreign judgment is admitted and proven in a Philippine court, it can only be repelled on grounds external to its merits, i.e. , want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. Courts are not allowed to delve into the merits of the foreign judgment. 

[See also Process of Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree]

PERSONALITY TO FILE THE PETITION

Any person interested in any act, event, order or decree concerning the civil status of persons which has been recorded in the civil register, may file a verified petition for the cancellation or correction of any entry relating thereto, with the Regional Trial Court of the province where the corresponding civil registry is located (Rule 108, Rules of Court).

The alien spouse generally has no more personality to institute a marriage-action in the Philippines considering that the marital bond has been terminated by reason of divorce. However, in the scenario described above, the husband in the first marriage (while not a party to the action to declare the second marriage void) has personality to have the foreign decree recognized in the Philippines. The foreign judgment concerns the first husband’s civil status as married to the  Filipino (who contracted the second marriage). In the words of the Supreme Court, there is no doubt that the prior spouse has a personal and material interest in maintaining the integrity of the marriage he contracted and the property relations arising from it. There is also no doubt that he is interested in the cancellation of an entry of a bigamous marriage in the civil registry, which compromises the public record of his marriage. 

The interest derives from the substantive right of the spouse not only to preserve (or dissolve, in limited instances) his most intimate human relation, but also to protect his property interests that arise by operation of law the moment he contracts marriage.These property interests in marriage include the right to be supported n keeping with the financial capacity of the family and preserving the property regime of the marriage. Property rights are already substantive rights protected by the Constitution, but a spouse‚Äôs right in a marriage extends further to relational rights recognized under Title III (“Rights and Obligations between Husband and Wife”) of the Family Code.

[See also Grounds for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage and Procedure in Declaration of Nullity of Marriage; Source: Fujiki vs. Marinay, G.R. No. 196049, 26 June 2013]

Atty.Fred

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