On this great big planet of ours there are two countries where you cannot get divorced (up to you decide if that is good or bad). The first might be obvious if you are Catholic: Vatican City. Yes the Vatican is an autonomous state. And no you cannot get a divorce there. Not surprising. Not illogical either. If all you’ve got is priests and nuns there shouldn’t be any marriages either. Yes, there are other civilians living in the Vatican, but they can go to Italian civil courts for divorce.
The other no-divorce country caught me by surprise: the Philippines. Divorce is not legal in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Like how I constructed that connection? Under Philippine law, two people wishing to end their marriage have limited options. They can file for legal separation or they can get an annulment. Legal separation (like under California’s legal separation option) allows them to live apart, divide their property and debt, impose support and custody orders, but they retain their status as married persons and cannot remarry. An annulment is simple in explanation, and very complicated in implementation. An annulment simply erases the marriage, as if it never existed in the first place (a tricky little outcome that the Catholic Church also recognizes). The grounds for annulment are very focused. The parties have to prove that the marriage was never valid to begin with. Reasons might include one or both parties having been below the age of 18 when they got married, either party having an incurable sexually transmitted disease, or facts proving polygamy or mistaken identity.
It has not always been so. When the Philippines was a Spanish colony divorce was an option (albeit almost impossible to attain). When the Philippines was an American colony divorce was allowed. When the Philippines was occupied by Japan in WW2 divorce was allowed. It was in 1949 when the Philippines gained its independence that divorce was outlawed by the new Civil Code. I find that really interesting….
Oh yes, there is one exception. If the couple is of the small percentage of Filipinos who are Muslim, they can get divorce under the Code of Muslim Laws.
More on Philippine family law. Given the obvious influence of the Church can you guess what else is against the law? Think about it… Yep, same sex marriage. That also caught me by surprise initially, then made perfectly consistent sense when lined up with no divorce. I had always understood the Philippines to be a very socially liberal place. However, just like here in the US, the Philippines demonstrates that society and law don’t always line up. Very intriguing.
Please visit hardinglaw.com for more information on family law.