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Senate panel approves divorce bill

A Senate panel has approved a consolidated bill expanding the grounds for dissolution of marriage and instituting divorce in the country.

In its report, the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality said while the State continues to recognize the sanctity of family, it is also duty bound to safeguard the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights, uphold the fundamental equality before law and protect the best interest of children.

“Towards the end, the State shall adopt a divorce policy in keeping with the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution…,” it said.

The Senate committee said that to obtain an absolute divorce, a petition must be filed separately or jointly by both spouses.

A joint petition filed by both spouses with common children must include a plan for parenthood that provides support, custody, and living arrangements for their children.

“If the court determines that the joint plan for parenthood is adequate to protect the rights and interests of the common children, the court shall approve the joint plan for parenthood together with the grant of a divorce decree if warranted,” it said.

Under the bill, the grounds for divorce include:

  • Five years of separation, whether continuous or broken, without a judicial decree of separation,
  • The commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after the celebration of their marriage,
  • The grounds for legal separation under the Family Code; provided that physical violence or grossly abusive conduct… need not be repeated; provided further, that, lesbianism and homosexuality… shall not be a ground, unless either or both spouses commit marital infidelity,
  • A final decree of absolute divorce validly obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by any Filipino citizen,
  • Irreconcilable marital differences or irreparable breakdown of marriage, despite earnest efforts at reconciliation,
  • A marriage annulment or dissolution, duly authorized by a church or religious entity, or a marriage termination duly authorized by customs and practices traditionally recognized, accepted, and observed by an ICC or IP to which the parties belong.

Meanwhile, the report stated that for indigent litigants, the court shall waive the payment of filing fees and other costs of litigation, and shall appoint a counsel de oficio and assign social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists… to assist the petitioner and their children.

To evaluate evidence of indigency, the court may take into consideration their independent source of income, property, and capacity to afford services of counsel. The court may also consider if the petitioner is from a marginalized group or entity.

In March, the House population and family relations committee approved a bill instituting divorce as an alternative mode for the dissolution of marriage.—Joahna Lei Casilao/AOL, GMA Integrated News