Venue, or in which city or province the petition must be filed, is one of the matters covered in the relevant procedures for legal separation or annulment/declaration of nullity. The venue in these petitions is the place of residence of either the petitioner (spouse who filed the petition) or respondent (the other spouse), at the option of the petitioner. The Supreme Court has issued a set stricter guidelines when it comes to venue.
These guidelines, contained in the Supreme Court Resolution dated 2 October 2018, disseminated by the Office of the Court Administrator OCA Circular No. 63-2019 dated 17 April 2019, are summarized and discussed below.
I. REQUIRED ALLEGATIONS AND DOCUMENTS
Petitioner shall state the complete address of the parties in the petition (i.e., house number, street, purok/village/subdivision, barangay, zone, town, city, and province). The petitioner shall attach the following: (a) certification of residency by the petitioner; (b) certification by counsel; and (c) proof of residency.
A. Certification of residency. The petitioner shall submit, together with the petition, a sworn certification of residency (with house location sketch) issued by the barangay.
B. Duty of Counsel. Sworn statement of counsel of record that he/she has personally verified petitioner’s residency and that the petitioner had been residing thereat for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
C. Supporting Documents. Any but not limited to the following supporting documents:
- i. Utility bills in the name of the petitioner for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
- ii. Government-issued I.D. or Company I.D. bearing the photograph and address of the petitioner and issued at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
- iii. Notarized lease contracts, if available, and/or receipts for rental payments (bearing the address of the petitioner) for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition.
- iv. Transfer Certificate of Title, or Tax Declaration, or Deed of Sale and the like, in the name of the petitioner where he/she resides.
II. DISMISSAL OF PETITION
Failure to allege. The court can dismiss the petition should the petitioner fail to state, in the petition, the required information and attach the required documents.
Alleging false address. At any stage of the proceedings where it appears that the address alleged in the verified petition is false or where it appears from the registry return/s that either party is unknown at the given address, the court shall, after notice and hearing, dismiss the petition and require the counsel of record to show cause why no appropriate sanctions be imposed upon him/her for submitting a false affidavit of verification.
Incidentally, on cases where the public prosecutor is directed to investigate whether collusion exists between the parties, the court shall additionally order the public prosecutor to include in the collusion investigation report a determination of the party’s residence.
Failure to prove residence. Failure to prove the residency requirement shall be a ground for the immediate dismissal of the petition, without prejudice to the refiling of the petition in the proper venue.
If the petition is filed at the respondent’s place of residence and summons could not be served by reason that the respondent is not actually residing at the given address, then the petition shall be dismissed.
Officials, parties or representatives who submit a false certification or document shall be held liable for indirect contempt, without prejudice to criminal and/or administrative liabilities.
[See also: Steps / Procedure in Legal Separation Cases; and Procedure in Annulment of Marriage and Declaration of Nullity of Marriage]
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