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In the Philippines, where marriage is highly valued as the foundation of the Filipino Society, divorce is a controversial issue that not alot of Filipinos want to delve in. This is especially given the fact that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, which deeply upholds the sanctity of marriage – making our country, along with the Vatican, to be the only two countries that still has not legalized divorce. But, what is divorce? And how does it differ from the existing options for separation namely, Annulment and Legal Separation?
Under the Family Code of the Philippines, Annulment is a legal decree that nullifies the existence of a marriage based on the following grounds: psychologicalincapacity, forced marriage, fraud, and impotence, while Legal Separation can be petitioned if there is a recurring physical abuse in the relationship, a spouse is a drug or alcohol addict, a spouse is forced or intimidated to change his or her political or religious beliefs, a spouse has committed adultery, or a spouse has been abandoned for more than a year without any reasonable cause. Although an annulment allows remarriage, a legal separation does not because it still recognizes the marital bond between the parties.
Divorce, on the other hand, recognizes and terminates the existence of marriage based on the combined grounds of Annulment and Legal Separation, but also adds the basis that both parties are truly experiencing an irreconcilable or irreparable marriage despite their efforts. It also allows both parties to remarry anotherperson once the process has been successful and provides several features such as child support, custody, division of assets, and alimony. Unlike Annulment, Divorce costs less – making it more accessible for Filipinos who are not financially capable enough to afford an Annulment fee which usually costs 250,000 pesos and more.
The cost of an Annulment is often deemed to be discriminatory since it favors the rich who can afford the necessary legal teams to pursue the process, while the poor remains in line and unheard in court for years due to limited resources. In addition, analyzing the grounds for Annulment and Legal Separation, both seem ineffective and provide a limited number of options for people who want to leave their irreparable marriages. For example, if a person wants to dissolve his or her marriage due to constant abuse from his or her partner, the only option for them isLegal Separation. This only enables them to live separately, but they cannot remarry another person since they are still considered married in the eyes of the law. Imagine the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma that the inflicted party had to endure and yet, they are technically still married with the person who persistently abused them. Thus, divorce can also help battered wives leave abusive relationships once and for all. According to the findings of the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey, one in four married women aged 15-49 has experiencedall types of violence from their spouse including: physical, emotional, and sexual violence.
With the prevalence of spousal or intimate violence, Divorce seeks to shed light and spark hope for the thousands of Filipino women who are suffering from abusive marriages. Aside from that, it also saves children who are deeply affected by severe parental conflict because studies suggest that it has the most damaging effect on children. According to an article written by Sutherland (2014), a member of the Institute of Family Studies, parental conflict and familial violence may affect children in ways that they externalize and internalize their distress. Children can possibly become more aggressive, anti-social, hostile, and defiant – posing detrimental effects on their mental health and their holistic development. However, there are concerns that divorce may undermine the importance of marriage given that the nation continuously strives to strengthen the Filipino family. It is described as an easy way out for those who just simply want to leave their marriages and not work on it. In addition, it affects children even if they are no longer between parental conflicts. But, looking at the divorce bill, it ensures that all stakeholders will undergo a scrutinized process. The bill states that whenboth spouses have filed a joint application for divorce, they are required to undergo a 6-month cooling off period in order to further contemplate on their decision. However, it does not apply to cases which involves abuse against mother and children as well as threatening of murder. As mentioned earlier, divorce will provide child support and custody. They will be provided with a parenthood plan to ensure the children’s welfare.
Thus, with all these arguments presented, I firmly believe that divorce must be legalized in the Philippines. It is not just an easy way out of a dysfunctional marriage nor a matter of just catching up with other countries’ policies, but a way that could save a life, protect the welfare of those concerned, and could give constituents a more viable option. It is time to face the realities of our society – there are marriages that simply do not work out despite continuous efforts, as well as arranged and abusive marriages that are still rampant in our society. It is time to give people the capacity to choose and an avenue to truly rise from failed marriages, because that is more important than preserving tradition.
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