Now with Malta’s approving their own divorce bill leaves only the Philippines and the Vatican City as the last two remaining states without their own divorce bill. But what does it imply? Are we now pressured to rush the two House Bills which are for the legalization of divorce in our country?
But what is divorce anyway? Wikipedia defines divorce as the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties. It has several types but the way I see it, divorce is the termination of marriage without any grounds at all except that you just don’t feel comfortable with your spouse anymore. It is fairly simple; just file your petition to divorce in the court and the next thing you know you’re back in the singles market. Remember Britney Spears and her first marriage? She got married and had it divorced after 55 hours. Such act is an insult to the institution of marriage.
I shall not elaborate it fully but there are three things that you have to know in marital laws in the Philippines: declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, annulment and legal separation. Declaration of absolute nullity of marriage requires that the marriage is void ab initio or void from the start. In short, as if there was no marriage that took place. It’s either the essential (consent and legal capacity) or formal requisites of marriage (marriage certificate, authorized solemnizing officer and marriage ceremony) were not present at all at the time the marriage was contracted. It includes the ever famous, PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY. Annulment, on the other hand, usually happens when there is a defect on the consent given by the parties. For example, you married a man who concealed his homosexuality. Your marriage is valid but voidable or valid unless annulled. Remember that the defect must exist already when you get married otherwise, it cannot be a ground for annulment. Legal Separation steps in when the defect happens AFTER marriage. The Family Code enumerates several grounds for Legal Separation and they are the following:
Art. 55. A petition for legal separation may be filed on any of the following grounds:
(1) Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;
(2) Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;
(3) Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;
(4) Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned;
(5) Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent;
(6) Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent;
(7) Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad;
(8) Sexual infidelity or perversion;
(9) Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner; or
(10) Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.
Take note that Legal Separation IS NOT rescinding the contract of marriage. It only allows couples to separate from their bed and board. It also separates their property and the gains would go to the injured spouse. However, it is even illegal for a woman to revert back after to her old surname because the marriage still exists. The law hopes that eventually the couple would put aside their differences and return to each other arms after a brief separation. They are free to reconcile anytime even after the grant of legal separation.
So why am I not in favor of divorce? It’s pretty simple: to protect the sanctity of marriage. To get into any of these three processes is a rigorous process. There are even counseling sessions involved. There would be people who intervene. It’s long enough to make you contemplate why you got married in the first place. That it is not only the two of you who would get hurt but also your children. Everyone wants a family who would be steadfast strong to protect and support them hence I cannot really blame children who rebel against their parents after the separation. Also, the experience does impact the lives of children from broken families. There are several studies that children who grew up in a household of broken families tend to have unsuccessful marriages too in the future. It would probably start an unhappy cycle of unsuccessful marriages for generations to come. Couples who are breaking up would also feel the pain of their original nuclear family like the disappointment of their parents, the annoyance of their siblings. Also, what about the sharp scrutiny of the public eye and the pain of being talked badly behind your back? Rumors may even spread that you’re actually having incestuous affairs when in fact there is probably none. Again in this scenario, it would be the children who would get hurt the most hearing heartbreaking things about their parents.
Just because everyone is doing it in the world does not make it right. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life (Article 1, Family Code). It’s permanent because it is the establishment of the conjugal and family life which is the core and heart of the society. Is it not when everything crushed in our lives like academics, work and friendship, family remains? What would happen when even family is not there to support us? How dreadful that life can be.
Also, we cannot be hasty on our decisions. I am single but according to all wedded couples I know, there are really days that it is a challenge to be together with the person that they had married. There are disappointments, heartbreaks, illness, misunderstanding and chaos from time to time but that is the essence of the wedding vows that you had uttered in the wedding:
I, ________, take you ________, to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
My teacher in Managerial Economics once told me, that finding the person and falling in love is the easiest in marriage because you just, well, fall. But it is a challenge to keep the vow. But you must. That is not only because of your children and your obligations to them. Or that’s not because you swore to God and its not nice breaking your promises to Him. You do it because of your love for that person that you sometimes take for granted or takes you for granted. No marriage is perfect as there are no relationship in this world is ever perfect. It is continuously challenged to enable it to be stronger and better.
With the approval of divorce, marriage may be likened to an ordinary contract where it is easily rescinded and mutual rights over their properties were returned as if nothing happened. More than the conjugal gains and more than the petty misunderstanding marriages are about responsibilities that you would do your vow wholeheartedly to your spouse, children and society. Divorce teaches one to be irresponsible as it is always easier to let go of one’s responsibilities than to fight for it. However, this irresponsibility or to an extent, cowardice, is never a guarantee for a happy future. In fact there are several people, most especially in the Western world, who would get married for more than four times and still not find happiness with it.
Happiness is not easy to achieve. Happiness means work and not running away. Work for your marriage. Work for your happiness.
***Anyone who wants advice on family law may ask me. However, take my advice on your own risk as I am not yet a lawyer.