Dear Smart Parenting, Hello! I'm in a serious relationship with my Filipino girlfriend, who is working here in Singapore, for 1 and a half years now. She was previously married to a Filipino guy but their relationship did not work out due to the guy’s psychological abuse and violent tendencies. They’ve been separated for a long time now.
My girlfriend and I would like to get married already, but we understand that she needs to sort out her legal status first. However, she doesn't want to go back to the Phillipines for this. Is there a way that we can legally get married here?
Dear Niel, I’m glad to hear that your girlfriend got out of her abusive relationship with her husband. With that, I have good news and bad news. The bad news: I’m afraid that there is no way for your girlfriend to obtain an annulment of her marriage without actually going back to the Philippines. An annulment of marriage is a personal cause of action, and the Rules of Court state that only the husband or the wife can file a petition for annulment of marriage. That means she can’t get someone in the Philippines to file the Petition for her -- she has to do it herself.
The good news is that she doesn’t have to be in the Philippines for the entire duration of the case. If she manages to time it right and if she lucks out on the court dates, then she will only have to be back in the Philippines at least thrice or even twice for the whole process.
Firstly, she must go to the Philippines to hire a lawyer who will prepare her Petition for annulment. On the same trip, she can already go to a psychologist for her psychological evaluation. After that, she only needs to return to the Philippines for the pre-trial conference and to testify in Court, and then she can execute a Special Power of Attorney in favor of her lawyer to represent her during the rest of trial. Now, if your girlfriend really wants to limit her return trips to the Philippines, her lawyer can file a motion for her to take her deposition on a date immediately or soon after the pre-trial, so that this, too can be accomplished while she is still in the Philippines. That way, her deposition will take the place of her testimony, and she won’t have to come back later on to testify on direct and cross examination.
However, please keep in mind that the whole annulment process might take anywhere from a year to two years, depending on the availability of the witnesses and the court’s schedule. You will have to be patient until your girlfriend’s petition for annulment is granted. In the meantime, just continue to enjoy each other’s company and keep looking forward to your future together. After all, if you’re sure that you’re meant to be together, then it shouldn’t matter when you get married, as long as you’re truly committed to each other.
Atty. Nikki Jimeno
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