Monday, December 26, 2005

Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage

We don’t have a divorce law here in the Philippines. But we do have its equivalents (for example, declaration of nullity of a marriage based on Article 36 of the Family Code) which allow the estranged couple to marry other persons after their marriage has been declared null and void. Please take note that on the basis of Article 15 of the New Civil Code, a divorce obtained by a Filipino abroad will not be recognized here in the Philippines. Please read the following articles I have written on the issue of divorce and remarriage for Filipinos:

Divorce obtained abroad by Filipino citizen against alien spouse now recognized in the Philippines

Filipino divorced by spouse (who's formerly a Philippine citizen) can remarry under Article 26 of the Family Code

Ruffa, Ylmaz, TV Patrol, divorce and remarriage by Filipinos; John and Gretchen?
The issue I wish to discuss here however is the Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. I’m sure you have heard the expression “What is legal is not always moral, and what is moral is not always legal.” Well, let me rephrase it this way, “What is legal is not always Biblical, and what is Biblical is not always legal.”

Over the years, pastors and church members have asked me for advice on what to do in situations where a new believer in Christ is legally married but is now separated and living in with another partner. While I could outline the laws and legal procedures in annulling a marriage, I would always tell the church member to consult his pastor on whether he has Biblical grounds for annulling his marriage.

My discussion here is based primarily on three sources: (1) Chuck Swindoll’s book “Strike The Original Match”; (2) Kerby Anderson’s article on divorce from the Probe Ministries website; and (3) from the Radio Bible Class Ministries article “Divorce and Remarriage” by RBC research editor Herb Vander Lugt.

Swindoll’s views on divorce and remarriage

Chuck Swindoll describes it accurately when he said in his book (published by Multnomah Press, 1980) that a busload of evangelical theologians will never achieve unanimity in their views of divorce and remarriage even if the bus went on a tour for the whole summer. Some Filipino pastors will categorically state, “The Bible does not allow divorce under any circumstance, period. The Bible does not allow remarriage, either, period.”

My own views are similar to those propounded by Swindoll. He states that based on Matthew 19 and I Corinthians 7:12-15, there are three circumstances or grounds for a valid, Biblical divorce and remarriage. These are:

1. When the marriage and divorce occurred prior to salvation;

2. When one’s mate is guilty of sexual immorality and is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with the marriage partner;

3. When one of the mates is an unbeliever and willfully and permanently deserts the believing partner.
Swindoll closes his discussion by quoting John R.W. Stott (Church Counter-Culture, IVF Press 1978) who says, “Divorce was a divine concession to human weakness.” Swindoll adds, “No Christian should aggressively seek the dissolution of his or her marriage bond. Some of the very best things God has to teach His children are learned while working through marital difficulties. Endless stories could be told of how God honored the perseverance of abused and ignored parties as they refused to give up.”

Dr. Ed Wheat, M.D. in his book “Love Life for Every Married Couple” (reprinted in the Philippines by Christian Literature Crusade) echoes the same view in page 227: “Do not give your husband a divorce. Do all in your power to delay or prevent it. If you must consult a lawyer, make it clear to the lawyer that it is only for your financial protection and that of your children. Find a Christian lawyer who will help you preserve your marriage.”

Anderson’s views

Kerby Anderson agrees with Swindoll that divorce and remarriage are Biblical only “in cases of marital infidelity by the other spouse or in cases of desertion by an unbelieving spouse.” Anderson also warns that even in these cases, pastors and churches should encourage reconciliation, not divorce.

Anderson also briefly tackles the issue of domestic violence or spousal abuse. He says that “in very troubling cases which involve mental, sexual and/or physical abuse, legal separation is available as a remedy to protect the abused spouse.”

Vander Lugt’s views; spousal abuse as a ground for divorce and remarriage

The Radio Bible Class Ministries article by Vander Lugt discusses in greater detail the issue of domestic violence or spousal abuse as a ground for divorce. Vander Lugt basically agrees with Swindoll and Anderson that the Bible permits divorce and remarriage on two grounds: sexual infidelity and the desertion of a spouse by an unbeliever.

However, Vander Lugt argues that I Corinthians 7:10-11 is the Apostle Paul’s compassionate provision for an abused woman. He states, “ … a woman who is married to a physically abusive husband may not be sinning when, with the encouragement of her spiritual counselors, she seeks divorce action – even if her husband is not guilty of sexual immorality.” He adds however that in such a case, remarriage is not allowed.

It is clear from the previous citation of Swindoll, Anderson and Wheat’s views, that Vander Lugt departs completely from what is certainly the majority view on divorce and remarriage.

A lot of pastors will also find questionable Vander Lugt's views that:

1. “When two people whose divorces were not valid in God’s sight come together in the sexual union of marriage, they break their former marriage covenant. But this is not a continuing state. From this point on, they are husband and wife.
“God considers two people as married when they have met the civil requirements. This is true even when their divorces were not valid in God’s sight.”

2. “ … when two people marry after a divorce on grounds less than specified by Jesus and Paul, they sin against the covenant they made in the previous marriage. But this occurs only once. Their first sexual union breaks the former bind. The new marriage covenant is now in effect.”

Ptr. John MacArthur Jr. (I can’t remember the exact source) on the contrary, says that since the divorce is not Biblical, God doesn’t recognize the subsequent marriage. Most Filipino pastors I know would also take strong exceptions to these views by Vander Lugt. To be fair however, Vander Lugt doesn't simply pull these views out of thin air. He bases his views on the difference between the Greek word for fornication ("porneia") and for adultery ("moicheia"). You can read his complete article at the Radio Bible Class Ministries website.

I began this discussion with the statement, “What is legal is not always Biblical, and what is Biblical is not always legal.” Let me pose a situationer for you at this point.

The Family Code of the Philippines provides in Articles 41 up to 44 what is known as “declaration of presumptive death for purposes of remarriage.” If a spouse has been missing for two years (extraordinary absence) or four years (ordinary absence), and there is well founded belief that the absent spouse is dead, the present spouse can file a petition in court asking that the absent spouse be declared presumptively dead. After the court’s decision has become final and executory, the present spouse is now free to remarry.

That’s the law. My question to you is this: You’re a pastor, and your church member says that he or she wants to avail of Articles 41 to 44 of the Family Code in order to marry someone. Would you say that the member has a Biblical reason for remarriage?


Anonymous said...

dear atty. galacio,
thank you so much for putting up like this. it really help us to our concerns.
my husband and i are both u.s citizens.his ex wife who is base in the philiipines keep harrassing us from the time my husband filled for divorce.she refuse to sign the divorce petition but still the court granted the divorce.she can't accept the truth.and now she is threatening us that she will uses her political influences once we land our feet in the there any actions that we could use against her to stop harrassing and threatening us?to make her aware that we have something to use against her.?
thank you so much again and GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

Anonymous said...

Hi Atty Galacio,
I have a friend who is now a resident in Hongkong and plans to get married in Hongkong even though her marriage here in the Philippines is not yet annulled. Would the government of HK require them to submit a CENOMAR as a requirement in application of marriage?Will these be consider as bigamy and punishable by law? Hoping for your response. Thanks and God Bless!

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

1. The CENOMAR is not a requirement for marriage under the Family Code of the Philippines. However, some Local Civil Registrars in town and cities are requiring the submission of the CENOMAR. As to whether a CENOMAR-type document is required by Hong Kong authorities, I do not have any information or expertise on this matter.

2. The criminal justice system in the Philippines is jurisdictional, meaning, the criminal complaint must be filed with the fiscal’s office in the town or city where the crime took place. For example, if the crime took place in Manila, the case must be filed there and not in Quezon City. Since the wedding will take place outside the Philippines, there is a problem in jurisdiction, meaning, where in the Philippines should the complaint for bigamy be filed? This favors your friend.

HOWEVER, your friend’s spouse has several options:

(a) he/she can file a civil case for damages here in the Philippines; or

(b) he/she can file a case there in Hong Kong against your friend using Hong Kong law on bigamy. In the Philippines, bigamy is a public crime which means that anyone with knowledge of the crime can file the complaint. If bigamy is also a public crime in Hong Kong, your friend’s spouse can simply get in touch with Hong Kong authorities to report the bigamous marriage for prosecution.

Moreover, if the court handling the annulment case here in the Philippines finds out about the bigamous marriage, this can be used against your friend.

Please take note also that even if the first marriage is later on declared null and void, this will not make the second marriage (in Hong Kong) valid.

Anonymous said...

Hi atty.

i found out that i married a "gay" because i accidentally read his diary stating there his affair with his so-called husband.His diary was dated 2 months before we got a civil wedding. The moment i discovered it, i quit. And when i asked him about his sexuality. and i told him about the diary, he would just silent and wouldn't say anything. we never live together as husband and wife also, because he works in saudi. and after we quit he went back to abroad. I kept the diary. because i want our marriage to be null and void. my question is "is his diary can be a valid testament and his being a gay can be valid a valid grounds also to nullify our marriage?" and i file a case to nullify our marriage , will it proceed even if his not here?" anyway, he was not interested about it(he told me about it thru e-mail), because he has a new relationship now in saudi."

thank you so much!!

more power!!

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

As to having your marriage declared null and void, please read the Frequently Asked Questions section of my Family Matters website. Please also read my Legal Updates blog posts (look for the links in the sidebar):

Amy Perez case: Psychological incapacity in annulment of marriages

Sexual infidelity or promiscuity does not constitute psychological

Irreconcilable differences not a ground for declaring a marriage null and void

What happens in an annulment case if the respondent fails to file an Answer?

Paragraph 4 of Article 46 in relation to Article 45 of the Family Code states that concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage is fraud and can be used as basis for annulling the marriage.

Yes, the petition can be filed even if your husband is not here in the Philippines. The petition for annulment or declaration of nullity (or of declaration of presumptive death for purposes of remarriage) to be prepared by your lawyer will indicate the last known address of your husband. If your husband’s family or relatives accept the summons of the court, then the case will proceed. If there is no one at that last known address to receive the summons, then your lawyer will ask permission of the court to publish the summons in a newspaper of general circulation. Then your lawyer will present the proof of publication to the court and the case will continue.

Anonymous said...


My boyfriend is an US citizen, who is in the US Army and married a Philippino girl a couple years ago in the Philippines. He does not have a copy of the marriage certificate. She ended taking him for all his money and never intended to be him. She abandoned him by never coming to the United States when he had set everything up for her, from two plane tickets (she dismissed both plane tickets) to legal US documents for her to come to the States. She also turned out to have two kids that are not his so now he wants to divorce her for fraud and adultery under article 333. The marriage was never documented here in the United States so can he still file for divorce here in the US? Is this something we can resolve ourselves or does it have to involve a lawyer? We are trying to get married soon and in order for me to receive military benefits, he has to prove to the army that he is divorced. Since the Philippines rarely issues divorces, is there any other "Philippine" documentation presentable to the army that would be equivalent to a US divorce? How would we go about this step by step? Please help - its been a nightmare for him and affecting our future!

Thank you so much.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Please clarify. You are a US citizen?

Since your boyfriend is also a US citizen, you should consult an American lawyer as to how he can file a divorce over there. It does NOT mean that since your boyfriend got married here in the Philippines (where there is no divorce) that your boyfriend cannot avail of US laws for a divorce over there.

As to documentation, you can check with the Local Civil registrar of the town or city where the marriage took place or with the NSO (National Statistics Board). Anyway, US lawyers will know how your boyfriend can avail of divorce over there.

Anonymous said...

hi Atty. My concern is my civil rights marriage validity. My husband is a US immigrant, and was married in the States to a Filipino immigrant also, way back before our marriage. He told me that He already filed for a divorce never granted due to child support issue? Now that He has settled his child support and filed for the divorce again and I think this time he is just waiting for the release of the papers. My big problem is that He is telling me now that our marriage was NULL and VOID, that He can re-marry in the States without complications. He has a girlfriend now, a naturalize citizen in the States and I think He has a plan to get married there. What will happen to our marriage here? and what will happen if He get married again in the States? Will that marriage be recognized as a valid marriage since mine is considered as NULL and VOID? please give me advice, I`m really confused. Can I file him a case? hope to hear response from you and Thank YOu so much.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Please read my posts “Divorce obtained abroad by a Filipino not recognized here” and “The right of a divorced Filipino spouse to remarry under Article 26 of the Family Code” (look for the links in the sidebar).

When you got married, your “husband” was still validly married (since as you said, the divorce between him and the wife was not yet final). Moreover, since your “husband” was only an immigrant and not yet a naturalized US citizen, he is covered by the Family Code prohibition on divorce by Filipinos (Article 26). His divorce is not recognized here in the Philippines and thus your marriage is null and void.

Even if your husband’s divorce has become finalized in the US, as a Filipino citizen, he is not allowed to file for divorce. His marriage to this woman will not be recognized here. From the point of view of Philippine law, he is still married to his first wife. The problem however is since he is in the US, he is outside the jurisdiction of Philippine courts.

Your “husband” has created a lot of legal problems for you. Even if your marriage is void, you cannot take the law into your own hands and declare by yourself that your marriage is void. Under Article 40 of the Family Code you should file a petition to have your marriage declared as bigamous and void.

Please consult other lawyers who may have opinions different from mine or who may be able to suggest alternative courses of actions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Atty. Thank You for letting me know my case. But how about if He marry again in the states to a naturalize citizen, will that be considered as the valid marriage? since mine is already NULL and Void from the beginning? According to my Sis-in Law If ever the divorce will be finalized and He re-marries, that marriage (after the divorce) will be the recognized marriage and I cannot do anything about it, since mine is NULL & VOID. Please enlighten me some more. thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

To add to my previous post, what if the first wife filed for the divorce and as far as I know, she`s already a naturalize citizen, will my marriage still NULL & VOID? and if He remarry in the states to a naturalize citizen, will that marriage be the valid one, even though He is still married to me here? Your advice will be highly appreciated. thank you very much.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Like I said, even if your husband’s divorce has become finalized in the US, as a Filipino citizen, he is not allowed to file for divorce. His prospective marriage to this other woman will not be recognized here. From the point of view of Philippine law, he is still married to his first wife. The problem however is since he is in the US, he is outside the jurisdiction of Philippine courts. From the point of view of US law however, his divorce and remarriage are considered legal.

If it was the first wife (a naturalized US citizen) who filed for the divorce, then your husband can remarry (as he did with you). However, before marrying you, he should have filed here in the Philippines a petition for the recognition of his foreign divorce decree.

Please consult other lawyers who may have opinions different from mine or who may be able to suggest alternative courses of actions.

arki_gomz said...

dear atty. galacio
nabasa ko po ang mga comment po d2 ,related po kc sakin,may aswa po ako 1 year plang po kami ngaun po ang biyenan ko po pinaghiwalay kami at pati ang aswa ko nabrain wash narin po kaya naghiwaly po kami,twice na po nila sakin ginawa ang ihiwalay sakin ang asawa ko at anak ko wala namn ako gnagwa masama,marami po ang ginwa sakin ng biyenan ko pinagmumura po ako at lahat ng salita na nakakababa ng dignidad sinabi nya sakin ,kasal po kami sa church,ngaun po isinauli nila ako sa mother ko ngaun dumadalaw nlang ako sa anak ko para magbigay ng sustento na gatas,ngaun po mag1 year old na ung bata at magbbday ayaw nila ako papuntahin ngaun po binabalaan nila ako na ipapablater, ngaun po gus2 ko po sana humingi ng tulong kung paano ko kakasuhan cla at mahiram ko ang anak ko po...salamat po......alfie

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...


[1] Try to seek the help of the DSWD in your town or city in trying to mediate this problem between you and your wife.

[2] You have the option of filing a petition in court asking it to set the terms and conditions for visiting or spending time with your child.

For free legal assistance, please contact the DOJ Action Center. The DOJAC acts on complaints, requests for assistance and legal queries of walk-in clients of the DOJ. For legal assistance please visit the Department of Justice Action Center (DOJAC) Main Office, Ground Floor, Multi-Purpose Building, Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila; Telephone no: 523-84-81; Email Address: or visit any Regional/Provincial/City Prosecution Offices in your town or city.

Anonymous said...

Hi atty.. I have a friend that married to a U.S citizen guy. She just found out that she was still married to other Filipino. She thought that their marriages took place was not valid. But this Filipino guy already died before they got married.
Anyway, they were separated for more than 7yrs. then she finally found a nice guy. The problem is she was not using her Filipino husband name ever since. She was using her family name till she met the right guy and got marry. What can she possibility do in this kind of mess in front of her? What will happen to her I.D.'s and passport? and this mess..Could you please explain because she's trying to get suicide to end the problem.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

When your friend got married to this American guy, she was still validly married to the Filipino guy. It does not matter if the Filipino guy died later on. This means that your friend’s marriage to the American guy is bigamous and void from the point of view of Philippine law. She is indeed in a legal mess.

(Even if your friend’s marriage is bigamous and void, she cannot take the law into her own hands and declare by herself that her marriage is void. Under Article 40 of the Family Code she should file a petition to have her marriage declared as bigamous and void.)

Please consult other lawyers who may have opinions different from mine or who may be able to suggest alternative courses of actions.

If you want people to pray for your friend for her current situation, please follow this link to a prayer room for men and women:

Anonymous said...

Hi Atty.

I'm a filipino and came to UK in 2001, but now im a british citizen. I was married on a civil ceremony in 1996 and my wife came here 3 yrs ago but our relationship didn't work out. I filed for divorce and was granted. I haven't applied for a dual citizenship. Do I still have to apply for annulment in the Philippines?I'm not inclined to get my Philippine citizenship. Am I allowed to marry a filipina? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Adding to my questions above atty., we were married in the philippines and I was a filipino citizen when I got married. My ex-wife is still a Philippine citizen. Do I still need to get an annulment?what if she becomes a british citizen like me,would our marriage be automatically annulled by virtue of our citizenship because we're already divorced?

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

[1] Please read my post “The right of a divorced Filipino spouse to remarry under Article 26 of the Family Code” (look for the link in the sidebar). In the Supreme Court decision on the Orbecido case which I discussed in that post, the Court allowed the Filipino husband who was divorced by a former Filipino citizen (she became a US citizen) to remarry after complying with the legal requirements. In effect, the Court ruled that the former Filipino citizen (the wife) had the right to file for divorce under the rules of her country.

[2] Since you are already a UK citizen, what you need to get married here is a Certificate of Legal Capacity to contract marriage from the British embassy. Once you get the CLC, you and your future spouse can then apply for a marriage license.

The practical problem will be that you will have two marriage certificates on file with the NSO. You can consult the NSO Legal Department as to how to avoid any legal complications with having two marriage certificates in your name with the NSO files.

[3] Please consult other lawyers who may have opinions different from mine or who may be able to suggest alternative courses of actions.