Civil Law

CORPUZ vs. STO. TOMAS ART. 26 Family Code G.R. No. 186571 August 11, 2010 Article 26 of the Family Code, recognition of a foreign divorce decree

FACTS:

Petitioner Gerbert Corpuz was a former Filipino citizen who acquired Canadian citizenship married respondent Daisilyn Sto. Tomas, a Filipina, in Pasig City. Gerbert left for Canada soon after the wedding. When he returned to the Philippines and discovered that his wife was having an affair with another man, he filed a petition for divorce before the Superior Court of Justice, Windsor, Ontario, Canada which granted the petition for divorce.

Two years after the divorce, Gerbert went to the Pasig City Civil Registry Office and registered the Canadian divorce decree.

Gerbert also filed a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce and/or declaration of marriage as dissolved with the RTC. Daisylyn did not file any responsive pleading and offered no opposition to the petition.

The RTC denied the petition. The RTC concluded that Gerbert was not the proper party to institute the action for judicial recognition of the foreign divorce decree as he is a naturalized Canadian citizen. It ruled that only the Filipino spouse can avail of the remedy

Gerbert asserts that his petition before the RTC is essentially for declaratory relief, similar to that filed in Orbecido; he, thus, similarly asks for a determination of his rights under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code. Taking into account the rationale behind the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, he contends that the provision applies as well to the benefit of the alien spouse.

ISSUE:

Whether the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code extends to aliens the right to petition a court of this jurisdiction for the recognition of a foreign divorce decree.

RULING:

The alien spouse can claim no right under the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code as the substantive right it establishes is in favor of the Filipino spouse.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.

As the RTC correctly stated, the provision was included in the law “to avoid the absurd situation where the Filipino spouse remains married to the alien spouse who, after obtaining a divorce, is no longer married to the Filipino spouse.”

The legislative intent is for the benefit of the Filipino spouse, by clarifying his or her marital status, settling the doubts created by the divorce decree. Essentially, the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code provided the Filipino spouse a substantive right to have his or her marriage to the alien spouse considered as dissolved, capacitating him or her to remarry.

Given the rationale and intent behind the enactment, and the purpose of the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code, the RTC was correct in limiting the applicability of the provision for the benefit of the Filipino spouse. In other words, only the Filipino spouse can invoke the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code; the alien spouse can claim no right under this provision.

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