The Philippines is the only country, aside from the Vatican, where divorce remains illegal, but that may be about to change, with politicians there pushing for absolute divorce to become legal.
Chronic unhappiness and a no-fault divorce have been dropped in the consolidated proposal to legislate absolute divorce in the Philippines that is pending in a panel of the House of Representatives.
House Representative Edcel Lagman said the bill would give judges latitude to determine irreconcilable differences in a marriage.
“We have a generic definition of irreconcilable differences, which would result to total breakdown of the family, and the differences are so grave that the parties cannot reconcile despite repeated efforts. But this is a general provision on irreconcilable differences because the statute should not make hard and fast definitions, which may exclude other circumstances within the the concept of irreconcilable differences,” he said.
“We follow the suggestion of the Supreme Court in one case that it would be good for Congress not to make a categorical definition of psychological incapacity because that definition could be constrictive, that other circumstances within the ground will be excluded. According to SC, it will be best to address this in a case-to-case basis so that the court will be able to adjust its decisions according to prevailing circumstances,” he added.
Lagman said the grounds for absolute divorce are the same as the existing grounds for legal separation, annulment of marriage, and nullification of marriage–more particularly on psychological incapacity–but there are additional grounds, such as de facto separation for 5 years and the marriage is “irremediable or beyond repair,” or when the spouses have already gotten a judicial decree of legal separation for 2 or more years.
There’s a mandatory 6-month “cooling off period” upon the filing of the divorce during which the court will “actively intervene in attempting to reconcile the parties.” In instances of domestic violence, or when the life and safety of a spouse or a child is in danger, however, this “cooling off period” is waived.
Annulment and legal separation do not grant complete relief to spouses in dysfunctional or abusive relationships because annulment only covers causes “existing at the time of the marriage” and does not encompass those occurring during the marriage. Legal separation does not allow spouses to remarry, unlike absolute divorce.
Lagman said: “Annulment does not cover the more prevalent grounds which may occur during the marriage like insanity, violent and grossly abusive behavious, imprisonment, drug addicition, infidelity and morally corrupt practice.”
He also said that annulment, legal separation and nullification of marriage were provided for in the Family Code in lieu of absolute divorce to appease the Catholic church. He added: “While the State protects and preserves marriages, it is also duty-bound to provide full relief to spouses and their children in irremediably broken and lost marriages.”
Around 2,000 Roman Catholic Filipinos protested in Manila on Saturday against a push to legalise divorce. The Catholic Church counts about 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, and its lobbying has helped to make the Philippines the only state in the world aside from the Vatican where divorce is illegal.
Although lawmakers are confident that the divorce bill will pass with the majority in the House, it could face opposition in the Senate. Several senators have publicly opposed the bill, with the Senate President quoted as saying that the laws on annulment simply needed strengthening.
Absolute Divorce in Australia
The Family Law Act 1975 established the principle of no fault divorce in Australian law. This means that a court does not consider which partner was at fault in the marriage breakdown. The only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, demonstrated by 12 months of separation. No-fault divorce is designed to reduce hostility in a divorce and allow for resolution and mediation rather than confrontation and blame.
The default in Australia’s family law cases is mediation, or Family Dispute Resolution. It encourages people to agree on arrangements without having to go to court. Mediation is done privately, as opposed to a courtroom, and the focus is not on ‘winners’ or ‘losers’. Mediation involves you and your former spouse sitting down with an independent third person (a mediator) to attempt to resolve issues in dispute. Couples are discouraged from playing ‘the blame game’. This usually helpful process does not necessarily require that you and your former spouse face each other in same room. The mediator may move between you in separate rooms. It can cover all divorce issues such as parenting arrangements, child support, property settlements and spousal maintenance.
When mediation is unsuccessful, it is then likely that court proceedings will ensue. In Australia, before commencing Court Proceedings concerning children the parties are usually required to first attend mediation (if they haven’t done so already), which is also known as Family Dispute Resolution. Attending mediation is not compulsory when the parties have reached an agreement and are applying for Consent Orders. Nor is it compulsory in the case of family violence or the matter is urgent.
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane we encourage mediation and collaborative divorce. We aim for clients to pursue a divorce that is as low in conflict as is appropriate. We think this is especially important where children are concerned and we have the expertise to assist parents in reaching agreement about the parenting plan for their children. Our divorce lawyers offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today!