Hontiveros renews push for ‘expeditious, affordable’ divorce │ GMA News Online

Senator Risa Hontiveros has revived a bill pushing for divorce in the Philippines.

Under Senate Bill No. 147 or the “Dissolution of Marriage Act,” Hontiveros seeks to ensure the protection of the common children in the affected marriage and to make the court proceedings for the termination of marriage “affordable, expeditious, and inexpensive”.

“It is high time for the Philippines to reinstitute absolute divorce, allowing married spouses in irremediably broken unions to finally start anew. The sanctity of marriage, after all, pertains not to the quantity but to the quality of marital relationships,” said Hontiveros in her explanatory note.

The lawmaker also enumerated several “guiding principles” for the proposed measure including providing families with necessary protection and assistance, protection of all persons from abuse and violence, judicially decreeing absolute divorce based on grounds that existed after the celebration of a valid marriage, and ensuring the court proceedings are  “affordable, expeditious and inexpensive”, particularly for indigent litigants.

For the grounds of absolute divorce, the bill states it should be based on:

  • Five years continuous years of separation, with  or without a judicial decree of separation
  • Commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after the celebration of marriage
  • If there are grounds for separation under Article 55 of the Family Code
  • A final decree of absolute divorce was validly obtained in a foreign jurisdiction
  • If there was an irreconcilable marital difference or irreparable breakdown of marriage

SB 147 provides a petition for absolute divorce may be filed separately or jointly by spouses. A joint petition of spouses with common children, however, should be accompanied by a parenthood plan which states the support, parental authority, custody, and living arrangements for them.

Further, the proposed legislation aims to make the proceedings accessible for all Filipinos by mandating the courts to waive the payment of filing fees and other costs of litigation after the petitioner presents evidence of indigency.

The court shall also appoint a counsel de officio and assign social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, preferably from appropriate government agencies, to assist the petitioner and the common children of the parties.

Once enacted, an absolute divorce under the measure will lead to the dissolution of marriage bonds; proper courts deciding the custody of the common children and the visitation of the spouse not granted primary custody; liquidation of all conjugal gains with the assets being divided between spouses; and divorced spouses being no longer compulsory heirs to one another, among others.

The measure penalizes spouses who will fail to provide court-ordered child or spousal support. Liable individuals are punishable by prision mayor and shall be fined P100,000 to no more than P300,000 on top of the unpaid financial support.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros said spouses who will agree to reconcile during the pendency of the divorce proceedings or before the judge shall submit a joint manifestation before the same court where they filed their petition to dissolve their marriage.

If filed, the divorce proceedings shall thereby be terminated at whatever stage.—LDF, GMA News