Divorce continues to be a touchy topic here in the Philippines. Whenever it’s brought up, the negative reactions range from straight-up disapproval to making excuses in the guise of support. Take the likes of senators Koko Pimentel and Panfilo Lacson. The former said he wants to change the name to “dissolution of marriage” (it’s the same thing), while the latter said people should only be allowed to file for a divorce once in their lives. If these amendments are met, they’ll support the law.
Meanwhile, there are those who disapprove just because we already have annulment to dissolve a marriage. What they may not realize is this isn’t an option many can take because of several factors.
But first, let’s define “annulment of marriage.” According to Article 45 of the Family Code, it’s proving that a marriage is void. A couple should have all the requisites needed for a marriage (eg. proper age and consent freely given) to file for annulment, and the only accepted ground is proving your spouse’s psychological incapacity under Article 36.
How much and how long does it take?
Some senators who are against divorce suggest that annulment should just be made more affordable and accessible.In a tweet last week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros pointed out that an annulment could cost around half a million pesos.
“Pwede naman magpa-annul”.
Una po, ang mahal magpa-annul. Kadalasan inaabot ng kalahating milyon, kaya mga mayayaman lang ang kaya ito. Kailangan kasing patunayan na may psychological incapacity bago ikinasal…
During a roundtable discussion on debunking myths about divorce, lawyers and advocates (some of them had gone through an annulment) confirmed that you have to pay at least P300,000 to cover the lawyer and psychologist fees. Take note that not everyone has the resources.
Some advocates shared it took a long time before they could have their marriages dissolved, noting the difficulty in proving their spouse’s psychological incapacity, especially if there isn’t one in the first place.
And no, domestic or sexual violence alone aren’t grounds for an annulment. You still need to prove psychological incapacity under Article 36.
The problem with the “psychological incapacity” ground
Here’s the tea: When you file for an annulment, you can only prove the presence of psychological incapacity based on what has happened after the marriage.
Dr. Sylvia Claudio, a professor of Women and Development Studies and a psychologist, said it is irrational to think “being married to you makes me crazy, then we annulled, everything’s suddenly okay.” She also noted “there’s no category that fits psychological incapacity,” and psychologists like herself are placed in a position where their morals are tested.
“There are few psychologists you can go to if you’re looking for a certification [of psychological incapacity.] I personally don’t want to do it because I don’t want to turn my back on science,” Dr. Claudio said. “I’m not really saying all psychologists are only doing it for the money. We’re caught in a position where you also want to certify [their claims of psychological incapacity] because you’re trying to be a humanitarian also because they need to get rid of each other.”
Dr. Claudio added she would only certify psychological incapacity if the annulment case involves violence against women and their children.
We mentioned briefly how proving this could be difficult because spouses would have to nitpick their marriage problems, which is a private matter and something that people shouldn’t be forced to divulge. Sometimes, they’d have to lie just to get a certification of psychological incapacity.
“When I spoke to women who’d gone through the annulment, I found it was such an even more painful and toxic experience to prove their psychological incapacity against each other. Sometimes even have them invent proofs of that reality. Masakit ‘di lang sa kanila, kung di pati sa mga anak,” (It’s painful not just for the spouses, but also the children) Sen. Hontiveros said.
It also includes psychological incapacity of either spouse as another ground. But unlike an annulment, either party don’t have to prove it happened at the time of or after the marriage.
Overall, the proposed bill makes it easier for couples to dissolve their marriage, especially women who experience violence and abuse. They could also file for a no-fault divorce citing irreconcilable differences—no mudslinging involved, just an acknowledgment that things didn’t work out.