Separation of husband and wife in the Philippines: The law of bigamy

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Two kinds of separation exist in the Philippines; one is a separation in fact, where the married couple lives apart but has not filed papers or orders against one another.

The second kind of separation is ‘legal separation’. This is a process by which the courts deem you legally separated; in essence, you seek a declaration of that legal separation.

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Under the Family Code of the Philippines Article #63 – “The decree of legal separation shall have the following effects: (1) the spouses shall be entitled to live separately from each other, but the marriage bonds shall not be severed.”

The overall problem with this code is that many, even foreigners, commit various crimes under the said law – from cheating or living with another person and various other crimes under the family code.

One infraction is “bigamy,” the act of marrying again (or multiple times).

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Bigamy under the Revised Penal Code, under Article #349 states:

“Article #349 – “Bigamy” – The penalty of prison shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings [mostly by court decree].”

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In the Philippines the code defines two types of bigamy. The first is simply that you re-marry even though your first marriage has not been dissolved. The second is those who contract to marry without having a definitive judgment that the former spouse is truly dead.

It is easy for a foreigner in the Philippines to actually be married multiple times. “The Right To Marry” paper issued by the American Embassy in the Philippines is only a sworn statement and often no legal proof of divorce is noted.

Even though local and regional courts need the document, the ones that are often noted are not inspected for legality. In saying that, a good forged copy of those said documents can often be used and nobody knows the difference.

This in fact leaves loop-holes for those wanting to circumvent the system, but anyone can easily be put in the spotlight if bigamy is found. In several instances it is noted that the spouse, or new wife is married and illegal papers are produced to marry again, putting the noted new husband in the hot seat if the original Filipino husband learns of the proceedings.

A distant or long separated spouse retains many aspects of law in the Philippines, those laws can easily haunt the new boyfriend or girlfriend of that said separated marriage.

Simply living with or cohabiting with someone, far before anything related to bigamy comes about, can simply have any foreigner or unknowing party in serious trouble.

Many laws exist in the Philippines on the long standing “Family Code” and those that think otherwise are often sitting in jail or deported under circumstances that even they didn’t see coming.

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