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Divorce in the Philippines

28.06.2011

|   David Ben Asher, Adv

Will the Philippines finally pass a law to legalize divorce?

Malta has voted yes on May 29, 2011 on Referendum legalizing divorce, the island's prime minister Lawrence Gonzi has conceded. This brings Malta into a new era where the state and the Church are separate.

 

Malta is one of only two countries in the world (with the Philippines) to ban divorce - apart from the Vatican.

 

Chile, another catholic country was the last country to legalize divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure.

 

Maltese voters were asked whether parliament should introduce a new law that would allow couples to obtain a divorce after four years of separation.

 

Previously, couples could apply for a legal separation through the courts, or seek a Church annulment - a complex process that can take up to nine years.

 

A third option was to get divorced abroad - and that would then be valid in Malta.

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Almost three-quarters of the electorate voted on Saturday on whether Divorce should be introduced in Malta.

 

With a 95% Catholic majority, Malta is the only EU country not to allow divorce. If the referendum result is upheld by parliament it will leave the Philippines as the only country in the world where married couples cannot divorce each other.

 

Figures gathered by the electoral commission after polling stations had closed showed that turnout was 72%,. "Even though the result is not what I wished for, now it is our duty to see that the will of the majority is respected," Gonzi said in a televised speech.

 

Gonzi, who campaigned against the introduction of divorce, said it was now up to parliament to enact a law legalizing the dissolution of marriage on the island. The Catholic Church supported a no vote during the campaign.

 

The leader of the yes movement, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, of the governing Nationalist party, said the result was significant.

 

The decision of the 306,000 voters of the conservative and deeply traditional Mediterranean island is further evidence of the waning influence of the church. Legal separation is widespread in the European Union's smallest state but there are many obstacles to remarrying.

 

The church did not campaign before the referendum but Malta's archbishop, Paul Cremona, warned churchgoers in a letter that they faced a choice between building or destroying family values.

 

Joseph Muscat, the pro-divorce leader of the opposition Labor party, said that a new Malta had been born. He urged a divorce debate in parliament as soon as possible, saying that he was confident that anti-divorce Labor MPs would not thwart the will of the people.

 

Divorce legislation is expected to squeeze through parliament as the ruling Nationalist party has a one-seat majority.

 

Malta was occupied by Arab invaders in the 10th century before mounting a fierce fight back against an Ottoman siege in 1565. A century-and-a-half of British rule, which ended in 1964, put an Anglo-Saxon stamp on the culture but Malta remained a strongly Catholic country. The country also forbids abortion. Pope Benedict XVI visited the island last year.

 

For weeks Malta has been plastered with posters showing a picture of a child alongside the slogan: "I trust you with my future – vote No."

 

In the referendum, Maltese voters were asked whether parliament should introduce a new law that would allow couples to obtain a divorce after four years of separation.

 

Previously, couples could apply for a legal separation in the courts, or seek a church annulment – a complex process that can take up to nine years. A third option was to get divorced abroad, which would be recognized as valid in Malta.

 

Chile was the last country to legalize divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure.

 

Philippines

 

With its 7,107 islands and a population of 94 million people, the republic of the Philippines couldn't seem more different at first glance to Malta.

 

The world's twelfth populous country is 90% Christian, of whom 80% are Catholic. The faith was brought to the islands by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who served Spain's King Charles I in his quest for a westward route to the Spice Islands.

 

Should Malta ratify its referendum the Philippines will be the last remaining state (along with Vatican City) to forbid divorce.

 

This remains a major issue for expat living outside of the Philippines’ we would like to adjust the legal status. Especially in Israel where anti immigration sentiments are on the rise.

 

When legal separation are not an option, adjusting legal status in Israel for a Filipino or Israeli married in the Philippines’ can be overcame with proper legal advise and planning in Israel or any other country

 

*The author practices International law and expert opinion on International divorce and inheritance law. For further information on this topic please contact David Ben-Asher by email: Davidbenasher@walla.com or by telephone 0524537214.

 

Disclaimer: This Article is for general information purposes only. Readers should take specific advice from a qualified professional when dealing with specific situations.

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