Recognizing foreign divorce judgments

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Recognizing foreign divorce judgments

Topic |  
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One of the many problems faced by our kababayans abroad are those involved in a mix marriage that ends up in divorce.

When was say mixed marriages, this is a marriage between  two people where one of the spouses is a Filipino.

The current law now is that  the foreign divorce decree obtained by foreigner spouse, thereby capacitating him to marry, shall result capacitating the divorcedFilipno partner-spouse to remarry also.

The common problem is that after the divorce is granted abroad, the Filipino spouse who returns to the Philippines, is left to have that foreign judgment  recognized here in the Philippines through a court proceeding which is very costly.

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It is a legal requirement in courts that foreign judgments, meaning decisions rendered by courts abroad, including divorce decrees, have to go through a judicial process of being recognized and ‘legalized’here in the Philippines.

Because it is costly, many Filipinos and Filipinas  who have been divorced abroad, are stuck to that unrecognized divorce decree because it is hard for them to initiate a proceeding in court called recognition of foreign judgment.

A provision in the rules of court mandates the effect of a judgment or final order of a tribunal of a foreign country.

The effect of that foreign judgment is that —-in case of a judgment or final order against a person —the judgment or final order is merelypresumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title.

Such foreign judgment is merely presumptive evidence. It means there is merely a presumption, not a conclusion.

That is why one has to go to court to prove that foreign judgment as a fact.

The Supreme court in Minoru Fujiki versus Maria Paz GalelaMarinay, (G.R. 196049 June 26, 2013)  said that  “for Philippine courts to recognize a foreign judgment relating to the status of a marriage where one of the parties is a citizen of a foreign country, the petitioner only needs to prove the foreign judgment as a fact.”

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This foreign judgment may proventhrough  either(1) an official publication or (2) a certification or copy attested by the officer (abroad) who has custody of the judgment.

If the office which has custody is in a foreign country, the certification may be made by the proper diplomatic or consular officer of the Philippine foreign service  abroadand authenticated by the seal of office.

Lately, the Philippines enforced the Apostille Convention therefore there is no more need for DFA/consular certification.

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This has become a stumbling block for many Filipinos, or Filipinas from enforcing their divorce decree obtained abroad by their foreigner spouse.

What we thus  propose to the Supreme Court is to amend the rules of court so that  there would be no more need to go to court to recognize the foreign judgment.

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Our proposal to change the rules of court is to the effect that “in foreign judgments dissolving a marriage under Article 26 of the Family Code, such foreign judgment or final order shall be conclusive evidence, and the courts shall take judicial notice thereof without recourse to any further judicial proceeding for recognition of such foreign judgment.

Such foreign judgment, duly Apostilled or authenticated, shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and the Philippines Statistics Authority, without prejudice to any oppositor who may seek relief in the courts.”

We believe this change will go a long way in helping Filipinos divorced by foreign spouses to have that foreign divorce recognized here without having to go through a tedious and expensive judicial process.

The functions of the newly enforced Apostille Convention should already be enough to prove that foreign judgment “as a fact.”

In this modern age, proving / verifying a foreign judgment as a fact is a lot easier than in those times when the rules of court were promulgated.

The Apostillesystem should be sufficient.

We hope one day this can be considered as an amendment to our rules of court.

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