Divorce and Conjugal Property Ownership for Filipinos

Divorce is the most common option for married individuals who want to separate or break their marital bond. Next to Vatican City, only one country does not recognize divorce, it is the Philippines. And while this is the absence of divorce in the country is somewhat workable for some Filipinos, it is burden for others. 

Real estate lawyer, Atty. Joyce Villanueva says that “The most common issue on divorce in the Philippines is one involving mixed marriages.” Either a Filipino married an alien (foreigner) or one of the Filipino couple became an alien and the other remains a Filipino citizen.

Now let us consider the marriage scenario of a Filipino Wife (W) to an alien Husband (H). W met H, an American citizen, while he was visiting the Philippines. They fell in love and decided to marry and move to United States of America. The marriage started off well but after a few years it gotten sour and H decided and filed for a divorce in the US. After the divorce was finalized, W left and went home to the Philippines to be with her family while H remained in the US.

A couple of years later, H found out that W has become successful in her business in the Philippines and was also dating a Filipino at that time.

H decided to go to the Philippines knowing that the country does not recognize divorce to file a  case against W, alleging that the property W owned is considered conjugal property.

Under Article 116 of the Family Code, all Property acquired during marriage is presumed to be conjugal property in the absence of Prenuptial Agreement. The properties and its earnings is jointly owned by the both spouses as per Article 124, Family Code.

“So even when H has no participation in the reaping of the disputed properties, if the disputed properties are conjugal in nature, H sill gets half of everything.”, Atty. Villanueva explains.

Related Post: Property Ownership | Before, During and After Marriage

How will the court decide on an issue involving a couple where one’s country recognizes divorce and the other does not?

In the case of Van Dorn vs. Romillo [139 SCRA 139, No. L-68470 (October 8,1985)], the Supreme Court ruled that “aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to the national law.

Atty. Villanueva share that, “if the divorce obtained is valid under the laws of the United Stated, the said divorce is recognized in the Philippines”

This means that H is no longer the husband of W with the validity of the divorce granted by his own country’s court. And that the Philippine laws acknowledged the divorce obtained by H and on the eyes of both United States and the Philippines, H is no longer married to W.

Conjugal property is referred to properties acquired during the validity of the marriage. Since the disputed properties between H & W were acquired after the end of marriage, H has no right and legal capacity to demand a share of the property or its earnings.

Related Post: Pre-nuptial Agreement | Why is it important?