Legal Separation in the Philippines – Everything You Need to Know

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Contrary to popular belief, legal separation in the Philippines does not give previous spouses any rights to remarry. Legal separation only means a separation on board and bed.

In this article, we will learn more about legal separation in the Philippines, the legal grounds, procedures, costs, and the effects of the legal separation decree.

What is Legal Separation?

Legal separation DOES NOT dissolve the marriage. Legally separated husbands and wives are still married to each other in the eyes of the law; it’s just that they are allowed to live separately. This means that legally separated couples still have a valid and subsisting marriage and are not permitted to remarry. Couples who are legally separated are still married, regardless of how independent their lives have become. This means that if either spouse has a sexual relationship with another person, they have probably committed adultery.

The primary reason why it is essential for couples suffering from a problematic marriage to seek a legal separation, aside from living apart, is to separately own assets. Legal separation dissolves the spouses’ property relations and removes the guilty party’s capacity to inherit from the innocent party.

Grounds for Legal Separation

Article 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides for the grounds as to when a legal separation may be filed. And these are as follows:

  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 6 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 1 year.

However, take note that even if your case falls under one of the grounds for legal separation, if the aggrieved party condoned the offense or consented to the commission of the offense, the petition for legal separation will be denied. The case is the same if parties have given ground for legal separation or if there’s connivance or collusion between them.

You must also remember that for a legal separation petition to prosper, the action must be filed within five years from the time of the occurrence of the cause.

Requirements when Filing Legal Separation

Prepare the following before filing a petition for legal separation:

  1. NSO copy of marriage certificate of the spouses and birth certificates of the children 
  2. Barangay certificate and Community Tax Certificate evidencing residence over the last 6 months of the province or city where the petition will be filed
  3. Copy of marriage settlement or pre-nuptial agreement, if any
  4. Copy of agreement, if any, relating to custody of the children, support, etc.
  5. Inventory of properties of the spouses (A document request list is usually provided by the counsel)
  6. List of witnesses (A questionnaire will be provided by the counsel)
  7. Evidences

Procedures for Legal Separation

Provided herein is an outline of the steps for legal separation:

  1. Engage the services of a lawyer.
  2. Preparation of the petition. This will be prepared by your lawyer. The petition shall allege the complete facts constituting the cause of action. It shall also include the following:

    a. names and ages of the common children of the parties
    b. specify the regime governing the property relations, as well as the properties involved
    c. Creditors (if any)
    d. Verification and certification against forum shopping signed by the petitioner.

  3. The petition is filed with the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing. Cases involving marriage and family matters will be raffled only to designated Family Courts. This will take about a week.  After the raffle, the petition will be forwarded to the selected court.
  4. The petition shall be filed in six (6) copies. A copy of the petition must be furnished to the City or Provincial Prosecutors and creditors (if any) within five days from the filing of the petition, and submit to the court proof of such service within the same period.
  5. An action for legal separation shall in no case be tried before 6 months shall have elapsed since the filing of the petition; we call this the “cooling-off period.”

If there is no adequate provision in a written agreement between the parties, the petitioner may apply for a provisional order for spousal support, custody, and support of common children, visitation rights, administration of community or conjugal property, and other matters similarly requiring urgent action.

NOTE: Failure to comply with the requirements may be a ground for immediate dismissal of the petition.

Cost of Legal Separation in the Philippines

The fee mostly depends on the complexity of the case. The filing fee for legal separation is below P10,000 if there are not properties involved, higher if there are properties involved. There are also the legal fees and other miscellaneous charges.

But just so you have a ballpark figure, law firms and other legal practitioners offer legal separation packages that range from ₱200,000 to ₱500,000.

Effects of Legal Separation

The legal effects or consequences of a legal separation decree are as follows:

  1. The spouses shall be entitled to live separately from each other, but the marriage bonds shall not be severed.
  2. The property relationship shall be dissolved and liquidated, and the offending spouse will be given no right to any share of the net profits earned by the property regime. 
  3. The custody of the minor children shall be awarded to the innocent spouse, subject to the provisions of the law.
  4. The offending spouse shall be disqualified from inheriting from the innocent spouse by intestate succession. Moreover, provisions in favor of the offending spouse made in the will of the innocent spouse shall be revoked by operation of law.

Getting a legal separation decree in the Philippines is not easy; however, it can serve as a defining step if you want to set yourself free from an unhappy marriage.

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