How Much Do Annulments Cost In The Philippines?
Annulment is a very sensitive topic, but unfortunately, it is the only option for Filipinos who feel trapped in a marriage. There is no divorce in the Philippines, making it the only country in the world without divorce laws in the books (unless you’re Muslim — and they comprise only 11% of the Philippine population).
While six out of ten Filipinos are in favor of the legalization of divorce, trying to pass a divorce bill in Congress is still difficult. A divorce bill filed in May 2014, House Bill 4408 authored by Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, is still languishing in the House Committee on Population and Family Relations almost a year later.
So for problematic marriages, the couple’s only recourse is annulment. The number of marriage annulment and nullity cases have been on the rise for years. According to the Office of the Solicitor General, in 2002, 5,250 couples sought marriage annulments or nullifications. In 2011, that number shot up to 9,133. And in 2012, a total of 10,528 cases were filed, or an average of 28 couples a day.
One major reason for lack of divorce in the Philippines is the availability of annulments. But annulments can be expensive. “Parties seeking annulment … require legal counsel for assistance in filing petitions and substantiating claims. Hence, annulment is widely considered a lengthy, tedious, and financially exhaustive procedure,” Senator Loren Legarda said in May 2014.
Read on to find out more about annulment basics and how much annulments cost in the Philippines.
What is an annulment?
An annulment of marriage annuls or declares no longer valid the marital union between a husband and a wife.
This is different from a declaration of nullity, which applies to marriages that are void from the start, such as a marriage between parties below 18 years of age (even with parental consent), bigamous or polygamous marriages, lack of authority of the solemnizing officer, of the absence of a marriage license.
Annulments are also different from legal separation, which allows the couple to live apart and separate their assets, but does not allow them to remarry — and they could still be charged with adultery or concubinage if they are caught with another partner.
What are the grounds for annulment?
According to Article 45 of The Family Code of the Philippines, there are 6 legal grounds for the annulment of a marriage:
- lack of parental consent (if either party is at least 18 but below 21 years old)
- psychological incapacity
- consent for marriage obtained by force, intimidation, or undue influence
- impotence / physical incapability of consummating the marriage
- serious sexually transmitted disease
Of these, one of the most common grounds used is psychological incapacity.
How much do annulments cost in the Philippines?
The major fees involved in an annulment process are the following:
- Filing fees: P10,000 or less. The first step in obtaining an annulment is filing for a Petition for Annulment of Marriage before Office of the Executive Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of the province or city you’ve been living in for at least six months. The filing fees can be under P10,000 if you have no properties you need to arrange for with your spouse.
- Acceptance fees: P100,000 and up. This is the fee a firm will charge you for taking on your case. “Small firms usually charge a P100,000 acceptance fee,” says Atty. Kitzi Purugganan, a Manila-based legal consultant. “Bigger firms can charge up to three times that.”
- Pleading fees: P5,000 – P10,000 each (P100,000 total). Pleadings are the documents you submit in court, such as petitions, pretrial briefs, judicial affidavits, and others. Expect to have at least 10 pleadings, according to Atty. Purugganan.
- Appearance fees: P5,000 – P10,000 each (P70,000 total). An appearance is when the lawyer actually goes to court for a scheduled hearing. “In my experience, at least 7 appearances are needed for an annulment. That’s already a conservative estimate,” Atty. Purugganan says.
- Doctor/psychiatrist fees: varies. To file for an annulment on the grounds of psychological incapacity, you will need a psychological report from a doctor or psychiatrist to use in court as strong proof of psychological incapacity. “It’s best to get the doctor or psychiatrist to testify in court as well,” says Atty. Joyce Domingo-Dapat of the Law Offices of Domingo Munsayac and Associates in a Google Plus post.
There are other costs not listed here, such as publication, transcript of records, and other miscellaneous fees.
At the very least, prepare “a budget of P165,000 to P200,000, all inclusive of the cost for the psychological report,” says Alexander Llanes Acain Jr., managing partner at Guzman Tanedo & Acain Law. This amount can skyrocket even more if the process drags on or you do not satisfy the requirements, leading to more pleadings and appearances and fees.
Compare that to a joint petition for divorce in Malaysia, where the total cost ranges from RM2,500 to RM5,000 (P30,590 to P61,000) and takes only three to six months.
Rep. Ilagan’s divorce bill, should it pass, promises that the divorce process will be 30-40% cheaper than an annulment.
How long is the annulment process?
“The processing time depends on the place where you will file the case. For instance in Quezon City, it will take 3 to 5 years to conclude a nullity of marriage case. While in Makati, Caloocan, Pasay, and, Pasig, it will take around 2 years,” says Acain.
He adds that processing time can be even longer if there are complications — such as if there are properties involved or there is an issue of the custody of the children. And of course, the longer it goes on, the more it will cost.
While it is illegal for both parties to jointly agree to nullify their marriage, Acain says that there are ways to make sure the process goes more smoothly. “The parties are not prohibited to enter a compromise in so far as their properties are concerned and custody of their children. I suggest that parties should agree on these matters before proceeding with the Nullity of Marriage,” he says.
Everybody dreams of a long and happy marriage, but sadly, not everybody gets to have it. For now, annulments are the only legal way out for Filipinos who wish to dissolve their marriages. And as you can see, they are prohibitively expensive for regular Filipinos who don’t even make P150,000 a year, much less can afford that in lawyer’s fees. So before you tie the knot, make sure you can work to make it last.