“Ang mahal nang magpakasal ngayon! Kulang ang P200,000 na budget,” says the groom-to-be to his brother who will be standing as the Best Man in his wedding.
“Mas mahal ang annulment. Ang habang proseso pa.” Quips the brother who, incidentally, just got the court’s decision on the annulment he filed several years back against his now ex-wife.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved a proposed law that will supposedly cut down the costs of a marriage annulment by simply acknowledging the Catholic Church’s decision on the annulment. Meaning, if your marriage was annulled by the Church, the State will recognize the decision and you no longer need to undergo a judicial process. Court hearings and attorney’s fees make up the cost of an annulment and by eliminating both, you are able to save hundreds of thousands of hard-earned money – money you will need when you and your spouse go your separate ways.
At the moment, an annulment may cost you between P200,000 to roughly less than half a million, depending on your lawyer’s fees and other expenses during the trial. That is why it is best that you are fully aware of the entire process of undergoing an annulment before making the decision to dive in and go the whole nine yards.
Today we will share the step-by-step process of a marriage annulment in the Philippines and how it has become such an expensive (not to mention sad and painful) method of ending a relationship. Take note though that the following should not be taken as legal advice; we researched this information online and are sharing it for information and guidance.
The Annulment Process in the Philippines:
Step 1: READ UP ON THE PROCESS OF ANNULMENT
There are a lot of annulment materials available online that you can freely access. You may talk to friends and families who went through an annulment; they can give you first-hand information on attorney’s fees, processes, and other information that may not be available online.
Step 2: CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY
When you are 100% sure that you would like to continue with the annulment, you need to choose an attorney who will handle the case for you. If this is your first time to ever need the services of a lawyer, the following pointers may help:
- Find a lawyer you can trust.
- If you should search online, be wary of lawyers and legal websites that promise to get you an annulment in a few months’ time. There are some who will even tell you-you do not need to appear in court. These may be signs that the people behind these sites or legal offices are scammers and fixers who are only after the money they could get from you.
- Consider the cost of hiring a lawyer. This may vary depending on his experience and track record of handling annulment cases. Of course, the more popular and successful the lawyer, the higher his charges would be.
- Narrow your options to 3 or 4 lawyers then schedule your appointments with them before you make your final choice.
- The lawyer you choose should be able to execute a written contract detailing the terms and conditions of handling your case. Ask questions and clarify anything that is unclear to you. It would help to have someone with you who can interpret legal jargons and is used to reading lengthy contracts and agreements. Remember, you can walk away anytime you feel that your clarifications are not fully satisfied.
STEP 3: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION
Now that you have a lawyer, you will be required to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine your personality and how this translates to the case you are about to file. Remember, in the Philippines, most annulments are grounded on psychological incapacity, for lack of something worse you can charge your legal spouse.
It is also during the psychological evaluation when you will be asked to narrate your marital history and effectively, draft the basis of the petition and psychological evaluation.
In short, your petition will be drafted in the presence of your lawyer and a psychologist. So effectively, you will be paying for two professionals right at the onset of the annulment process.
STEP 4: FILING THE PETITION
Your annulment petition will be drafted by your lawyer after the psychologist has released his evaluation. Your lawyer should send the draft to you for your review and approval before he submits it to court. You would need to sign the affidavit of non-forum shopping and this will be attached to the petition. Check that all documents are duly notarized before submission to court.
Once submitted, your case will be assigned to a judge by public raffle.
STEP 5: PRE-TRIAL AND COLLUSION INVESTIGATION
When a judge has been identified to handle your case, it will be scheduled for pre-trial.
An annulment must not be a conspiracy between the spouses involved; meaning, the court needs to prove that only one of the two parties is voluntarily filing the annulment. The court will need to establish this through a collusion investigation.
Meanwhile, the judge will limit the issues involved in the case and require the parties involved to submit to a mediation. This is where child support, custody, and visitorial privileges are discussed.
STEP 6: TRIAL
The three witnesses involved in an annulment trial are:
- The Petitioner
- The Psychologist
- A corroborating witness (this could be a friend or relative who knows the couple personally and is aware of the petitioner’s desire to break up the marriage).
The Respondent (or the ex-wife or husband) shall receive a notification of the annulment process. Respondents seldom appear to contest the petition.
STEP 7: THE DECISION
After all witnesses have taken the stand, the case is submitted for the decision of the court.
There will be a 15-day period for a motion for reconsideration to be filed; this shall begin from the time the decision is rendered and is received by either party.
If the annulment is granted, the Office of the Solicitor General can file a motion for reconsideration and appeal the case to the Court of Appeals. An annulment is not final until the decision of the Court of Appeals is released.
STEP 8: ANNOTATION WITH THE CIVIL REGISTRAR’S OFFICE
The LCR where the marriage took place has to apply the necessary annotations on the ex-couple’s marriage certificate. When any of the parties request for a copy of their old marriage certificate, the decision of the court should be clearly printed on the document, as proof that the marriage has been rendered null and void.
Both parties will need the annotated copy of the marriage certificate as proof that they are now free from the bounds of their marriage and may choose to re-marry or, in the case of the ex-wife, revert to her maiden last name in all of her IDs and other documents.
It is a long and painful process, as evidenced by the above narration. And so it is true that getting an annulment is much more expensive than getting married.
Think first before taking the plunge.