Legal separation in the Philippines

To see how to dissolve your Philippine marriage and remarry again, check out 3 Ways to Legally Separate if You’re in a Philippine Marriage.

However, if you want to understand the unique definition of legal separation in the Philippines read on.

The Philippines has a particular legal definition for legal separation which severs marital ties and separates property. However, it does not allow remarriage.

Below are the details.

Contents

Defining legal separation
Effects of legal separation
How to avail of legal separation
Grounds for legal separation
Grounds for denying legal separation
Practical considerations

 

What is legal separation?

Legal separation is a court approved separation of husband and wife. It is not divorce. Under legal separation, the marital obligations and the property relations between the spouses are ended, but the marriage bond is not dissolved unlike in divorce or annulment.

Legal separation is often sought by spouses in order to legally sever their properties from each other, although there are other ways to do this.

What are the effects of legal separation?

The spouses become entitled to live separately from each other and their obligation of mutual support ceases.

The common property of the marriage is dissolved and liquidated, but the spouse at fault shall have no right to any share of the net profits earned by their common property. This share of the net profits is forfeited in favor of the children or the innocent spouse.

Subject to court discretion on the best interests of the child, the custody of the minor children will be awarded to the innocent spouse.

The spouse at fault becomes disqualified from inheriting from the innocent spouse whether with or without a last will and testament.

 

How does a spouse avail of legal separation?

A petition may be filed at the Family Court by either the husband or the wife within 5 years of the occurrence of the ground for legal separation.

What are the grounds for legal separation?

Legal separation can be granted when there are serious marital problems. Under the law, the grounds for legal separation are:

(a) Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;

(b) Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;

(c) 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;

(d) Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned;

(e) Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent;

(f) Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent;

(g) Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in or outside the Philippines;

(h) Sexual infidelity or perversion of the respondent;

(i) Attempt on the life of petitioner by the respondent; or

(j) Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

The petition  must be filed in court within 5 years from the time of the occurrence of the particular ground/s for legal separation.

Unlike cases for nullity or annulment, these grounds occurred during the marriage and need not have existed before that.

Can a petition for legal separation be denied?

Yes. The following are the grounds for denying such a petition:

(1) Where the aggrieved party has condoned the offense or act complained of;

(2) Where the aggrieved party has consented to the commission of the offense or act complained of;

(3) Where there is connivance between the parties in the commission of the offense or act constituting the ground for legal separation;

(4) Where both parties have given ground for legal separation;

(5) Where there is collusion between the parties to obtain decree of legal separation; or

(6) Where the action is barred by prescription.

These deserve careful review.

Note ground (1) in particular. Condonation (forgiveness) may be either express or implied. Under Philippine law and jurisprudence, there is already implied condonation when, after a ground for legal separation becomes known, the couple resumes cohabitation as man and wife.

This means that even if there were valid grounds for legal separation, if the spouses have sexual intercourse after the grounds became known then legal separation will not be allowed by the court.

Our jurisprudence on this point is lifted from old American cases:

“The legal separation may be claimed only by the innocent spouse, provided there has been no condonation of or consent to the adultery or concubinage. Where both spouses are offenders, legal separation cannot be claimed by either of them. Collusion between the parties to obtain legal separation shall cause the dismissal of the petition.

A detailed examination of the testimony of the plaintiff-husband, especially those portions quoted above, clearly shows that there was a condonation on the part of the husband for the supposed “acts of rank infidelity amounting to adultery” committed by defendant-wife. Admitting for the sake of argument that the infidelities amounting to adultery were committed by the defendant, a reconciliation was effected between her and the plaintiff. The act of the latter in persuading her to come along with him, and the fact that she went with him and consented to be brought to the house of his cousin Pedro Bugayong and together they slept there as husband and wife for one day and one night, and the further fact that in the second night they again slept together in their house likewise as husband and wife — all these facts have no other meaning in the opinion of this court than that a reconciliation between them was effected and that there was a condonation of the wife by the husband. The reconciliation occurred almost ten months after he came to know of the acts of infidelity amounting to adultery.

In Shackleton vs. Shackleton, 48 N. J. Eq. 364; 21 Atl. 935, it has been held that “condonation is implied from sexual intercourse after knowledge of the other infidelity. Such acts necessary implied forgiveness. It is entirely consonant with reason and justice that if the wife freely consents to sexual intercourse after she has full knowledge of the husband’s guilt, her consent should operate as a pardon of his wrong.”

In Tiffany’s Domestic and Family Relations, section 107 says:

Condonation. Is the forgiveness of a marital offense constituting a ground for divorce and bars the right to a divorce. But it is on the condition, implied by the law when not express, that the wrongdoer shall not again commit the offense; and also that he shall thereafter treat the other spouse with conjugal kindness. A breach of the condition will revive the original offense as a ground for divorce. Condonation may be express or implied.

It has been held in a long line of decisions of the various supreme courts of the different states of the U. S. that ‘a single voluntary act of sexual intercourse by the innocent spouse after discovery of the offense is ordinarily sufficient to constitute condonation, especially as against the husband’. (27 Corpus Juris Secundum, section 61 and cases cited therein).

In the lights of the facts testified to by the plaintiff-husband, of the legal provisions above quoted, and of the various decisions above-cited, the inevitable conclusion is that the present action is untenable.

Although no acts of infidelity might have been committed by the wife, We agree with the trial judge that the conduct of the plaintiff-husband above narrated despite his belief that his wife was unfaithful, deprives him, as alleged the offended spouse, of any action for legal separation against the offending wife, because his said conduct comes within the restriction of Article 100 of the Civil Code.

The only general rule in American jurisprudence is that any cohabitation with the guilty party, after the commission of the offense, and with the knowledge or belief on the part of the injured party of its commission, will amount to conclusive evidence of condonation; but this presumption may be rebutted by evidence (60 L. J. Prob. 73).

If there had been cohabitation, to what extent must it be to constitute condonation?

Single voluntary act of marital intercourse between the parties ordinarily is sufficient to constitute condonation, and where the parties live in the same house, it is presumed that they live on terms of matrimonial cohabitation (27 C. J. S., section 6-d).

A divorce suit will not be granted for adultery where the parties continue to live together after it was known (Land vs. Martin, 15 South 657; Day vs. Day, 80 Pac. 974) or there is sexual intercourse after knowledge of adultery (Rogers vs. Rogers, 67 N. J. Eq. 534) or sleeping together for a single night (Toulson vs. Toulson, 50 Atl. 401, citing Phinizy vs. Phinizy, 114 S. E. 185, 154 Ga. 199; Collins vs. Collins, 193 So. 702), and many others. The resumption of marital cohabitation as a basis of condonation will generally be inferred, nothing appearing to the contrary, from the fact of the living together as husband and wife, especially as against the husband (Marsh vs. Marsh, 14 N. J. Eq. 315).

There is no ruling on this matter in our jurisprudence but we have no reason to depart from the doctrines laid down in the decisions of the various supreme courts of the United States above quoted.

There is no merit in the contention of appellant that the lower court erred in entertaining condonation as a ground for dismissal inasmuch as same was not raised in the answer or in a motion to dismiss, because in the second ground of the motion to dismiss. It is true that it was filed after the answer and after the hearing had been commenced, yet that motion serves to supplement the averments of defendant’s answer and to adjust the issues to the testimony of plaintiff himself (section 4, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court).”

This is a situation where old cases based on foreign social mores dictate the choices of today. The above discussion of old American sources was rendered by the Philippine Supreme Court in the case of Bugayong vs. Ginez way back in 1956. Social values have shifted in the last 60 years, but the condonation doctrine has not been overturned to this day. [It was lately cited by the Supreme Court in Busuego vs. Office of the Ombudsman Mindanao and Busuego, G.R. No. 196842, October 9, 2013.]

Consider also ground (4) for denying a petition for legal separation, “Where both parties have given ground for legal separation.” Consider what it means in practice.

The law demands that a spouse who seeks legal separation should come to court with “clean hands”. A marriage that has so broken down that both spouses have had extramarital affairs, or where each tried to murder the other, does not qualify for legal separation in the Philippines.

Somehow, this absurdity was meant in aid of marriage as “the foundation of the family” and “an inviolable social institution protected by the State.” In this case, by punishing two clearly unhappy people to remain bound together in matrimony and misery. It escapes me how turning marriage into a penalty uplifts it as a social institution.

In the meantime, the American states from which our law took its lead on these concepts have not remained static. Consider, for example, the marriage law of New Jersey, which revokes these grounds:

Recrimination, condonation and the clean hands doctrine are hereby abolished as defenses to divorce from the bonds of matrimony, dissolution of a civil union, divorce from bed and board or legal separation from a  partner in a civil union couple, and if both parties make out grounds for a divorce, dissolution or legal separation, a decree may be granted to each; provided that nothing herein shall preclude or abrogate the responsibility of a party for the penalty provided by law for perjury or the subornation of perjury.

These disqualifications are no longer in force in at least some of the United States even as they have fossilized into hard standards in this country.

Practical considerations for a petition for legal separation

Anyone who wishes to file for legal separation needs to take time into account. One can expect a clear case for legal separation to be more straightforward than a case for nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity, but it will still take time because a petition for legal separation has a cooling off period mandated by law.

By law, the trial cannot commence until 6 months after the date of filing of the petition. This cooling off period is intended by the law to allow the parties to reconsider and reconcile. It is, again, in line with Philippine law’s inclination toward maintaining the marriage bond.

Atty. Francesco C. Britanico

See also: How is the marriage property divided in legal separation?

See also: A simpler way to divide conjugal property

35 thoughts on “Legal separation in the Philippines

  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Hi Attorney,

    I’m from Cebu and I badly an advise here. I’m currently looking into the best route with the least cost. My wife already lives with another man and they recently have there 2nd child and we have been living separately since before she got pregnant by another man. It was also the time when i got a written and verbal confession from her. I’m looking into making sure that the custody of my child goes to me and at the same time keeping her away, with the least use of monetary resource. So to make it short, what would be the best route to go with the least cost, being that 100k to 200k for an annulment case can do much good if invested on my son. My son is currently under my custody being that the fault was her’s to begin with, so right now i’m planning to make a legal action. I hope you can provide me a very good advise. I’m just a father protecting the well-being and the future of his son..

    Hoping for your vert prompt and helpful response.

    Thanks Attorney and God bless..

  2. Hi Attorney,

    I’ve been separated with no communications with my ex-husband for almost 3 years now. We got separated due to repetitive physical abuse and he wasn’t working at all when we were together. I also heard that he was involved with drugs when we were together, but my daughter is with his parents right now. They are the one who is taking care of her since no one’s gonna do that in my family. He actually has a well-off family too but he doesn’t want to file anything for our annulment or legal separation, that’s why I wanna do the first step already. I wanna know how, and I’m really on a budget but I’ll do my best to at least have a legal separation with this man because I can’t stand to have any sort of connection with him anymore. What do I need to do? and How much do I need to spend to do this? Thank you so much. I am hoping for your reply.

  3. Dear Attorney,

    My husband and I have been separated for more than 4 years now, I am in the UK and he and his new family lives in the Philippines, Please can you kindly give me an advice as I would want to file a legal separation? how do I start? where do I go and the cost as well. and also what and how does legal separation affect acquiring property in the future. Do I need to file it in the Philippines or can i process here it her in UK

  4. Dear Attorney,

    My husband has no work for many years. It has been rumored that he’s taking drugs.
    I wanted to save our marriage as much as I could. But his behavior is killing me.
    When he sends me to work, he wont go back home and leaves my 3 children at home instead.
    He wont come home for a week or more.He makes a lot of excuses.
    That action has repeated many times.We always fight.He isnt a good husband, irresponsible father.
    I wanted to file legal separation . Please help me where can I go to ask help for low cost.
    Thank you very much.

      1. I have the same case. My husband has no work (for a couple of months already), even if I argued for him to find work first before leaving the current company. I shoulder all expenses resulting for me to be in debt already. We have been fighting and been civil to almost not talking though leaving in the same house. He has been lying to me in terms of money from previous company. We have 2 kids. This behavior is killing me as well, I cannot be in debt because of his irresponsibility. Though on different case, he is a good father, but really not a good husband. We have not shared bed for almost 2 years already. What is my options?

  5. Hi attorney,

    Me and my wife were separated for almost 15 years now. We had a daughter and she is 16 years old now. My ex-wife already had 2 sons with another man and the same with me i have kids in other woman. All i wanted is to annul our marriage and hoping that you can give more advice.

  6. Hi! Attorney,

    Me and my ex husband (US Citizen) were separated for almost 3 years now and we got a daughter. After we got married here in the Philippines and I’m pregnant at the same with our daughter, he went back to USA and never came back. We got a smooth marriage LDR relationship for a couple of months but then I found out that he’s cheating with me for a couple of times. Now he’s Living – in with another woman is the USA. He never pay child support for a year now. I do want a divorce that’s for sure and for him to pay child support for our daughter. What is the best advice you could give me on my concern? what are the steps i needed to do since it’s hard for me to process the said legal actions since he’s an american citizen and currently lives in the USA while we live here in the Philippines.

    Looking forward to hear from you,

    Godbless you!

  7. I want to file a legal separation becuase my wife is with another man and pregnant. She admitted that she is now living with the guy. I was advice that if i take the course of annulment it will cost 200K or 300k. Is it true? So im planning to file legal separation to protect my child and live in peace. How much can I spend on this and what should I do? Thanks

    1. This is very much dependent on the specific facts of the situation. Will send you an email.

  8. Good Day Attorney!

    I have been separated from my husband for about 12 years. He already have another family since a year we have been separated. Since then he is not communicating with me and my son, he does not give any monetary assistance or any kind. How could I get legal separation? Hoping you could help me. Thank you in advance.

    1. Infidelity or abandonment are grounds for legal separation. There may be other considerations. I will send you an email.

  9. Good day Atty!
    I have been separated from my husband for about 10 years. Since then he is not communicating with me and my two kids, he does not give any monetary assistance or any kind. How could I get legal separation? We don’t have any property to be divided since we are together as husband and wife for only 7 years. Hope you can help me what to do. . .

  10. Dear Attorney,
    My husband has no work for many years. He has been involved to his ex girlfriend last year. I was told that they had sexual involvement in his house in the province.
    I wanted to save our marriage as much as I could. I am still hoping he will change for our four kids. When we had fights, he won’t come home for a week or more.He makes a lot of excuses. I am working and still I am the who takes care of the kids when his not home.That action has repeated many times. We always fight.He isnt a good husband, irresponsible father.
    I wanted to file legal separation . Please help me where can I go to ask help for low cost. Also can you please advise me if what other legal action can I file for my husband.

    Thank you very much.

  11. Hi!
    I want to file for a legal separation from my husband. We’ve been separated for 5yrs and he’s living with his gf already. He’s not giving any child support and I learned that he already has a child with his girlfriend. Hoping you could help me. Thanks.

  12. Dear Attorney,

    Please help me get out of my situation. I think my husband has fallen out of love and I am not also sure if I still love him. I need to be separated from him, before I get a depression, I am always crying, My heart is always trembling, I have never been in peace these days with him around. I don’t think I deserve this kind of treatment from him. I have been asking for him to leave our house if he does not want to change his behavior towards me and our eldest son. He does not respect me anymore and are always shouting talking to me and my son, even if I am talking to him in the right way, If he gets really mad, he has this tendency to hurt me, grab my hair or my arms, pointing his fingers on my face, calling me names, and taking to me like I am the most idiot and nonsense woman on earth. These manners really hurt me and make me want to get out of the house, but I cannot leave my children, so I am asking him to be the one living the house, since he is not fond and incapable of taking care of my two son especially my youngest, who is only 1 year old. His voice is always angry, loud and no calmness everyday, I am a working mother, he is a self employed. I want separation but needs financial support from him for his children’s basic needs. I hope you can advise me of best thing to do.

  13. Pls help me attorney my husband is having an affair for 7 years with different girls. I really cannot take it anymore because he treats me very bad. He gives minimal support to me and his 3 children. He gives lots of money for his girlfriends. I don’t have much money left on filing the separation. I want to legalize the support because I think it is not enough. I used up all my salary for the house needs. He seldom works and leaves all the office work and child responsibility to me. He does not care about his children. He easily gets mad at me and says nasty things at me. He is often not here and I really don’t know about his whereabouts.

  14. Hi Attorney!

    How long does it take to get a legal separation in the Philippines. My mom and dad have been physically separated for 10-11 years. My dad had an affair and now has 5 kids with his new girlfriend. I am looking to sponsor my mom to Canada and they require documentation indicating that they are in fact legally separated. Is it a long process?

  15. Hi,

    I moved out of our house nearly a year now due to endless quarrels which I admit is usually caused by me being prone to Alcohol, my wife has different expectations and she believes that I am unable to tend to all of those. We have been sleeping on different rooms for 3 years I think and I cannot remember when we shared a single bed as man and wife. There is no 3rd party relationships involved but I believe that we fell out of love a a few years back. We are in talking terms but all about our only daughter who is staying with her and her family, I provide full financial support on a regular basis since I am employed and I understand that my daughter has needs. I know that my wife hasn’t moved on yet but I would like to start moving on but of course be there for my child financially and emotionally. I would like to know what would be the approach and how much (financial) it would take to completely be legally separated with my wife. I do not plan on marrying and will keep on supporting my daughter all the way. Please advise.

  16. Hello Attorney,
    I am an OFW working in Taiwan.
    I would like to know how much will be the cost to obtain legal separation?
    Is it cheaper than annulment?
    And since divorce may soon be implemented in the Philippines, if legal separation has already been obtained, can it be advanced to divorce?
    Thanks!

    1. Costs vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

      There is no indication in the bill passed by the lower House that legal separation may be converted to divorce. You would still have to go through divorce proceedings if ever the bill does become law after your legal separation.

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