Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, October 9, 2015

Annulments in the Philippines

From Pacific Daily News:

The Philippines bears the dubious distinction of being the last country in the world outlawing divorce to the majority of its citizens. Unhappy married Catholic couples wishing to live apart from each other only have three options.

Last week we discussed the first two — legal separation and voiding a marriage. With a legal separation, the couple lives apart, divides their property and debts, and determines child custody. However, they remain legally married, preventing both from remarrying. On the other hand, if a marriage is voided, then, in the eyes of the law the marriage never existed. So, the couple may remarry. Today, we discuss the third option, annulment.

As is true in other countries, the Philippines has two different annulment procedures — one religious, the other civil. People often confuse them. In the Catholic faith, a marriage can only be dissolved through an ecclesiastical annulment. This is a declaration that a sacramental marriage was never truly created. In other words, the marriage was fatally flawed from the very beginning and therefore doesn’t exist in the eyes of the Church. If the annulment is granted, either party may then remarry in the Church.

The process is rather complex, often expensive, and can take up to a decade to conclude. On Sept. 8, Pope Francis stated that the Church should take steps to streamline the process and reduce the cost.

Read more here.

October 9, 2015 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pope Francis' Annulment Reforms May Draw Divorced Catholics Back to the Faith

From Los Angeles Times:

After her divorce, Laura Brockway quit going to Sunday Mass. She felt unworthy and her faith lapsed, and she waited more than a decade before seeking an annulment. She now calls that experience — petitioning the church to declare her marriage contract flawed from the start — the most meaningful of her life.

Coming to terms with her failed union, a process that took 11 months and involved typing up dozens of pages of personal testimony, was a spiritual milestone for Brockway. "I became devoted to my faith," said the 47-year-old, who now works for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gary, Ind. "Now I hope it can do the same for others."

Many Catholics across the United States have welcomed Pope Francis' annulment reforms, the most far-reaching in almost three centuries. Making it faster, simpler and cheaper to obtain an annulment, many hope, will foster greater acceptance and encourage lapsed or wavering Catholics to rejoin the faith.

"It's certainly a positive message, and I would say it's a correction," said Father Kevin M. Laughery, a judicial vicar who leads the annulment tribunal in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill. A century ago, he said, the church, uncomfortable with the idea of divorce, tried to respond by simply ordering the faithful to stay married.

"Obviously, that did not work," Laughery said. "Even though our tastes may not include the idea of recognizing divorce, we have come around to the idea that it is sometimes necessary."

Read more here.

September 14, 2015 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pope Francis to Release New Marriage Annulment Process for Catholics

From The Washington Post:

On Tuesday, Pope Francis will release a plan to reform the Catholic Church’s procedure for marriage annulments, according to a Vatican spokesperson. The move comes ahead of a highly anticipated meeting the pope has organized in Rome in October that could result in changes in church practice and doctrine around the family.

The pope will announce two decrees during a news conference in Rome on Tuesday. The decrees are titled “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” and “Mitis et Misericors Iesus,” Latin meaning “The Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus” and “The Meek and Merciful Jesus.”

Annulment — a required process for Catholics that invalidates an earlier marriage — and the rules governing Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry outside the church have been under discussion since a high-profile meeting at the Vatican last year. Francis has spoken several times of the need to reform annulments, as Catholics have complained that the process can take time and money to obtain one before they can take Communion again.

Read more here.

September 8, 2015 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Case Law Development: Phillipines Supreme Court finds husband's homosexuality insufficient to declare marriage void

The Phillipines Supreme Court's 3rd Division, in a twenty page decision, reversed a lower court's ruling  declaring an eleven year opposite-sex marriage void because of the husband's homosexuality.  The Supreme Court found the trial court erred by only considering the husband's alleged homosexuality rather than requiring proof that the husband concealed his sexual identity from the wife at the time of the marriage.

A report of the case in a Phillipines newspaper is available here (RR last visited August 30, 2008)

August 30, 2008 in Annulment, International | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Case Law Development: Collateral Attack on Previous Divorce

The Tennessee Court of Appeals reviewed the standards for permissible collateral attacks on prior divorce decrees and reemphasized the very narrow range of situations in which these attacks can be successful.  The case involved a divorce action brought by Wife against her fourth Husband.  Husband counterclaimed with an action for annulment, claiming that Wife's prior divorce against second Husband, now deceased, was without jurisdiction and thus void, making the current marriage invalid as bigamous.  Husband argued that Wife's service of second husband by publication left that court without jurisdiction and denied second husband's due process rights.  The trial court agreed, granted the annulment and divided the couple's property according to title, rather than the equitable distribution statute. The court of appeals reversed, holding that, while lack of jurisdiction can be a basis for a collateral attack on a divorce, the lack of jurisdiction must appear on the face of the record, not from parol evidence. Here, the record of the prior divorce showed that Wife had made a diligent search for second husband's whereabouts and was unable to locate him.  Her deposition testimony in the current action could not be introduced to attack that finding.  Moreover, to the extent publication notice was insufficient as a matter of due process, that issue was not a grounds for an attack on the prior divorce by a stranger to that action.  Service of process is a personal right that can be waived (the court noted that second husband had never attacked the divorce and had, indeed, remarried himself). 

Hawkins v. Hawkins, Tennessee Court of Appeals (August 20, 2007)
Opinion online (last visited August 21, 2007 bgf)

Continue reading

August 21, 2007 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Philippine Supreme Court Says Deception is Basis for Annulment

The Philippine Supreme Court granted an annulment of a 10-year marriage after finding that the wife's "paranoid jealousy" made her psychologically incapable of performing the basic obligation of marriage. The court gave weight to a psychologist who testified that the woman was a pathological liar who continued with her deception even after the consummation of her marriage. In its opinion the court observed that "Any sort of deception between spouses, no matter the gravity, is always disquieting. Deceit to the depth and breadth, dark and irrational as in modern noir tale, dims any trace of certitude on the guilty spouse's capability to fulfill the marital obligations even more." Source:  Sun Star, Manila, For the complete story, please click here (last visited March 26, 2006, reo).

March 26, 2006 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Zellweger and Chesney Marriage – A Mystery?

Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger and her husband, country singer Kenny Chesney met in January, were married in May, and in September Ms. Zellweger asked for annulment after 128 days of marriage, the first reason quoted in the papers being “fraud”.However, they have recently been spotted at restaurants apparently enjoying each other’s company. Some speculate they are going to get back together. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Case Law Development: Burden of Proof in Annulment Actions

Nowdays, it seems that you only hear about annulments when pop stars wake up from the party a few days later and regret their impetuousness.   Here’s a nice old-fashioned annulment case.  Wife files for divorce after 13 years of marriage.   Husband counterclaims for annulment, arguing that Wife was already married at the time she and Husband wed.  Wife is required to produce a copy of the decree divorcing her from her first husband, which proves that the divorce came after the second marriage.  But the trial court says the divorce decree is not proof that first husband was then alive.  Because Husband did not prove that wife was not a widow before she became a second wife, the trial court granted a divorce rather than annulment.

The Hawai'i Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial.  The court notes that the divorce decree had the effect of shifting the burden of proof to Wife to show that her first husband was not alive or not married to her at the time of her second marriage.   The court's opinion cites a range of annulment-for-bigamy cases from other states from Kansas in 1885 to South Carolina in 2004. 

Tagupa v. Tagupa, 2005 Haw. App. LEXIS 383 (September 15, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited September 19, 2005 bgf)


For annulments of more star-studded litigants, you can read about Brittany Spear's annulment of her hours-long marriage (for impetuousness as best as I can read the court's decision) or perhaps you'd like to see the petition for annulment of the day-long Dennis Rodman/Carmen Electra marriage (on the grounds of "unsound mind") or maybe you'd prefer to hear actress Renee Zellweger and country singer Kenny Chesney's talk about their planned annulment of their 5-month marriage (on the grounds of fraud - "but it's just legal language").

September 20, 2005 in Annulment | Permalink