Divorce in the Philippines is a process to dissolve a marriage that is not typically legally available to Filipino citizens. The Muslim Personal Code, however, allows for divorce for couples who got married through the Islamic rite under specific circumstances.

The Philippines is often cited as the "only country in the world" where divorce is illegal, aside from the Vatican City since Malta legalized it in 2011.[1][2][3] Annulment is the only legal route to get out of a marriage for most citizens of the Philippines.

Couples may also opt for legal separation, alternatively referred to as 'relative divorce', although this process does not dissolve the marriage. Relative divorce is contrasted with 'absolute divorce', a setup where previously married individuals are allowed to remarry.[4]

There has been several attempts to legalize absolute divorce in the Congress.


Spanish colonial era

During the Spanish era in the Philippines, absolute divorce is unrecognized. The colony was under the jurisdiction of the Siete Partidas, which only granted couples 'relative divorce' which is mensa et thoro or legal separation and does not legally dissolve the actual marital ties. The following are the prerequisite for a relative divorce under the Siete Partidas.[4][5]

American colonial era

The United States would take over the Philippines after the conclusion of the Spanish–American War. During this period Act No. 2710 or the Divorce Law became law on March 11, 1917. The legislation provided for divorce a vinculo matrimonii or 'absolute divorce'. Divorce permissible was fault-based with the following prerequisite.[5]

Japanese occupation

When the Japanese Empire occupied the Philippines during the World War II, the Japanese installed Philippine Executive Commission issued Executive Order No. 141 on March 25, 1943 which repealed Act No. 2710 and expanded the divorce law in the archipelago through the new decree providing eleven grounds for a valid absolute divorce.[5] Following the end of Axis occupation of the islands and the proclamation of the revival of the Philippine Commonwealth on October 23, 1944 by General Douglas MacArthur,[4] Act No. 2710 was once again the prevailing law on divorce matters in the Philippines.[6]

Post-Commonwealth and contemporary era

Following the Philippines independence from the United States in the Philippines in 1946, Act No. 2710 remained applicable for a time. Until the enactment of the Republic Act No. 386 or the Civil Code on August 30, 1950 which only allowed for legal separation or what was before known as 'relative divorce' and does not allow for absolute divorce.[4] The grounds were adultery/concubinage by a spouse and an attempt on one's life of one spouse over another. There was deliberation within the Code Commission to include provisions on absolute divorce which was opposed by conservatives.[6]

The Civil Code would be updated through the Family Code in 1987 but the newer law still did not allow for absolute divorce.[6] The Civil Code allows for divorce for Muslims for a period of twenty years.

In 1977, President Ferdinand Marcos enacted the Code of Muslim Personal Laws which included absolute divorce provisions for Muslims.

Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,[7][8] Benigno Aquino III,[9][10] and Rodrigo Duterte[11] has expressed they would not support the passage of an absolute divorce bill during their presidencies. Although Aquino mentioned he was open to a 'legal separation' law which would allow couples to re-marry.[9]

Current president Bongbong Marcos has said that he was open to legalizing divorce when he was still a candidate for the 2022 presidential election provided that the option "would not be easy".[12]

By custom or rite of union

Indigenous people

The dissolution of marriages conducted under indigenous people's rites through divorce are not recognized by the government.[13]

Several cultures recognize divorce in their marriages including the Ibaloi of Benguet,[13] Tagbanwa of Palawan, Gadangs of Nueva Vizcaya, the Kankanais and Bontocs of the Cordilleras, and the Manobos and B'laans of Mindanao.[5]


The Code of Muslim Personal Laws of 1977 does allow for divorce for Filipino Muslims, many of who are part of the Moro people.[14]

Transnational marriages

Where a non-Filipino is married to a Filipino citizen and a divorce is obtained abroad by the non-Filipino spouse, the Filipino spouse can remarry under Philippine law,[15] even if the non-Filipino spouse acquired foreign citizenship after the marriage.[16]


Current proposals

The following are the current proposal to legalize divorce in the current 19th Congress of the Philippines.


The legalization of divorce has been opposed on religious grounds. Among those groups who oppose it are the Roman Catholic Church.[20]

Opponents of legalization of divorce has also argued that the state sanctioning such process is unconstitutional on the basis of the provision which mandates the state to uphold the "sanctity of marriage and its being the foundation of the family".[21][22][23][24]

Views of religious groups

Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines through the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has historically lobbied against any legislation to legalize absolute divorce in the country viewing the sanction of the state of such process as "anti-marriage" and "anti-family".[20][25] It already maintains that the process of legal separation and annulment for aggrieved married couples are already sufficient.[26]

Bishop Socrates Villegas as CBCP President in 2015, in a published position argued that legalizing divorce is contrary to human rights especially of the children of divorce couples. He says that allowing divorce would deter couples from working on their relationship first. He says that children whose married parents already availed legal separation are already traumatized and that divorce would allow "a total stranger" to enter their lives in a form of a new legal spouse which would make their situation worse.[27]

Other Christian groups

The Iglesia ni Cristo prohibits its members from availing divorce, and maintains that couples in a troubled marriages should work on their differences.[28][29]

Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) meanwhile expressed that his group is open to discuss the issue of divorce. Villasanta states that it is "up to the Church on how they will teach their people the importance of marriage and not on barring its (a divorce bill's) approval".[30]

Alternatives to divorce

While divorce is largely not recognized by the state. Marriages can be ended in the Philippines through annulment or declaring it null and void. Couples can also avail of legal separation.[31]

Method Grounds Limitations Notes
Legal separation
  • Repeated violence and physical abuse
  • Sexual infidelity
  • Conviction of a criminal offense with a penalty of more than six years
  • Abandonment
Either parties cannot remarry or have sexual relations with a third party
Declaration of nullity of marriage
  • Nonvalid marriages
    • Minors married without parental consent
    • Married by an unauthorized person
    • Bigamous marriages
    • 'Mistaken identity'
    • Incestuous marriages

Children arising from couples under voided marriages are considered as illegitimate

  • Minors married without parental consent
  • Individuals who have been of 'unsound mind' at the time of marriages
  • Couples married under 'deceitful circumstances'
    • Included failure of one to inform the other party:
      • Infliction of a sexually transmitted disease
      • Pregnancy involving another man
      • Criminal conviction of one party
      • Addiction
      • Impotence
      • Homosexuality
  • 'Psychological incapacity' of one party which caused the inability to perform one's marital obligations
Marriage is considered valid by the state until the point it was annulled

See also


  1. ^ Santos, Ana (June 25, 2015). "The Only Country in the World That Bans Divorce". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  2. ^ "The Philippines: a global holdout in divorce". New Internationalist. July 5, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  3. ^ Hundley, Tom; Santos, Ana (January 19, 2015). "The Last Country in the World Where Divorce Is Illegal". Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d Juco, Jorge (April 1966). "Fault, Consent and Breakdown-The Sociology of Divorce Legislation in the Philippines" (PDF). Philippine Sociological Review: 67–76. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d Foja, Alnie (August 2017). Reintroducing Absolute Divorce in the Philippines & Thoughts on the Divorce Bill (Monograph Series No. 2 ed.). UP Diliman Gender Office. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c "Women's Priority Legislative Agenda for the 18th Congress: Adopting Divorce in the Family Code" (PDF). Philippine Commission on Women. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  7. ^ "Philippine President Arroyo Opposes Constitutional Amendments, Divorce". Wall Street Journal. July 6, 2001. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  8. ^ "Arroyo opposes divorce bill". News24. March 19, 2005. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  9. ^ a b Beltran, Jill (August 19, 2010). "Aquino won't support divorce (12:59 p.m.)". SunStar. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  10. ^ "Divorce? No way, stresses Philippine government". The Korea Herald. January 7, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  11. ^ Salaverria, Leila (March 20, 2018). "Duterte opposed to divorce – Roque". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  12. ^ Patag, Kristine Joy (March 19, 2022). "Marcos open to divorce, 'but don't make it easy'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  13. ^ a b Pulta, Benjamin (June 8, 2021). "SC rules in favor of Ibaloi heirs claim on father's estate". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  14. ^ "Shariah Law and the Code of Muslim Personal Laws". Institute for Autonomy and Governance. Sun Star Davao. January 21, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  15. ^ "Family Code of the Philippines". Archived from the original on August 19, 2000. Retrieved September 6, 2006.
  16. ^ "Republic of the Philippines vs Orbeceido". Lawphil Project. Arellano Law. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  17. ^ Quismoro, Elson (February 23, 2023). "Many marriages are 'mistakes', says pro-divorce solon". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  18. ^ Torres, Sherrie Ann (July 12, 2022). "Hontiveros files 'no-fault' divorce bill amid church objection". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  19. ^ Cruz, RG (February 20, 2018). "House panel drops chronic unhappiness, no-fault provision in divorce bill". ABS-CBN News. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  20. ^ a b Patinio, Ferdinand (September 18, 2019). "No need for divorce, legal methods available for couples: CBCP". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  21. ^ Rosario, Ben (August 20, 2021). "Oppositors confident 'unconstitutional' divorce bill will not get Lower House nod". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  22. ^ Diaz, Jess (March 16, 2018). "'Divorce law will violate Constitution'". Philstar.com. The Philippine Star. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  23. ^ Fides, Agenzia (September 20, 2019). "Bishops: No to bills on divorce, anti-constitutional and anti-family - Agenzia Fides". Agenzia Fides. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  24. ^ "Our Right To Self-determination: Pilipina's Position On The Issues Of Divorce And Abortion" (PDF). Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. 2000. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  25. ^ "CBCP: Divorce bill 'anti-marriage and anti-family'". CNN Philippines. February 23, 2018. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  26. ^ Medenilla, Samuel (September 22, 2019). "CBCP: Divorce unconstitutional in PHL; legal methods available". Business Mirror. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  27. ^ "CBCP Position against the Divorce Bill and against the Decriminalization of Adultery and Concubinage". CBCP Online. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  28. ^ "For they are no longer two, but one". Iglesia Ni Cristo. November 23, 2022. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  29. ^ Alignay, Moses (September 30, 2021). "What Does the Bible Say About Divorce?". INC Media. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  30. ^ Escareal-Go, Chiqui (2014). "Driven to Survive: Four Filipino Women CEOs' Stories on Separation or Annulment". Philippine Social Sciences Review: 52. Retrieved April 16, 2023.
  31. ^ "Is the Philippines Ready for Divorce?". Philippine Daily Inquirer. July 9, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2023.