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HOWIE SEE IT: Divorce from a legal view

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

Lawfully, what we have in existence is Legal Separation, Civil Annulment and Declaration of Nullity of Marriage. To explain briefly Legal separation allows the parties to live separately, but the marriage is not dissolved and neither party can contract marriage with a new partner; while Civil Annulment recognizes the existence of a marriage until the time it is invalidated. The consent of one or both parties to the marriage must be proven to be faulty at the time of the exchange of vows. After an annulment, parties are restored to their single status. Declaration of nullity means that there was no valid marriage at all in the first place. The parties could remarry afterwards because they have, technically, never been married.

As such, from a purely legal stand point (and without prejudice to any moral arguments) the absence of such divorce law may not sufficiently address the problems and shortfalls (e.g. issues of spousal violence and discrimination based on social class, religion, and nationality) of the existing legal framework. As such, the rise in union dissolution cases, designates a need for a legal process to address the breakdown of marriages. Finally, the recognition of divorce as a legal option aligns with international human rights obligations and customary international law, which the Philippines should honor.

We can say that marriage is at the core of every Filipino family; and that the sanctity of marriage should be upheld (as it should be) but in the same light, considering the freedom and the rights of spouses should not be curtailed or restricted. Just like any relationship marriage is built on love, trust, loyalty and care but what becomes the legal remedy in its absence? What if everything changes and a person started to live a life full of misery? What is the sense of being legally connected to an agreement that is ruining your life?

Just like any agreement some contracts just don’t work. So, outside the ambit of religion or God; faith should not be restrictive in the same light that our laws should not be inflexible. Laws should be there to regulate and not to prohibit. These are not penal laws that have to be penalized or prohibitive. What is important is that we get married for the right reasons and stay married to the rights person; and that divorce if it becomes legal should be limited to certain grounds and causes and not be abused for flimsy reasons.

“There is no such thing as a ‘broken family.’ Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart. The only time family becomes null is when those ties in the heart are cut. If you cut those ties, those people are not your family. If you make those ties, those people are your family. And if you hate those ties, those people will still be your family because whatever you hate will always be with you” (C. Joybell).

Marriage is about love but what if the love no longer exists? What if there is no more care and trust; instead, there is pain, suffering and misery? Our religion and our God is not one that will make us suffer from such sad realities. Divorce is not about escaping the commitment to your spouse nor about breaking the solemn vow before God but rather given the right legal standards and grounds divorce is a means to correct a wrong situation, protect one spouse from the other and redirect to a better productive life.

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