THE Philippines House of Representatives Committee on Population and Family Relations has recently approved a Bill that would open a plenary debate on legalising divorces in the country.
The Southeast Asian nation is the only country in the world apart from the Vatican that disallows the option to end a marriage, but the committee on Tuesday approved a substitute bill that consolidated all proposals to legalise divorce and dissolution of marriage, according to ABS-CBN news.
The move is a historic one with leaders from both sides of the political divide taking part in the formulation of the new law.
If passed, the new Bill would allow married couples to end their marriage for reasons such as abuse, infidelity and irreconcilable differences.
Other valid reasons to file for divorce include psychological incapacity, gender reassignment surgery, and irreconcilable marital conflicts resulting in the “total breakdown of the marriage beyond repair”.
The Bill is also aimed at giving “the opportunity to spouses in irremediably failed marriages to secure an absolute divorce decree under limited grounds and well-defined judicial procedures to terminate a continuing dysfunction of a long broken marriage.”
According to CNN Philippines, under the proposed measure, couples separated for at least five years would be allowed to file for absolute divorce and when reconciliation is “highly improbable” and unless the separation was due to overseas employment or long-distance relationships.
But before a couple can even finalise their divorce, the Bill imposes a six-month “cooling off” period to allow time for the spouses a final attempt at reconciling their marriage.
On custody of children, the court will determine what is “with the best interests” of the children but those under seven years old will not be separated from their mothers unless there were “compelling reasons”.
The “innocent spouse” will also be entitled to one year support from the other if he or she was not employed.
“The proper court shall have the discretion to grant alimony, child support, and child custody pursuant to the pertinent provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines,” the Bill added.
The new law means married couples would have a cheaper alternative to getting an annulment as annulment proceedings in the country can cost a hefty PHP250,000 (US$4,813).