SC Reiterates Rule in Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce
August 10, 2022
The Supreme Court has reiterated the rule that in petitions for judicial recognition of foreign divorce, one must prove not only the fact of divorce but also the national law of the foreign spouse for the divorce ruling to be legally recognized in the Philippines.
In a 10-page Decision penned by Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando, the Court remanded to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Pedro City, Laguna, Branch 93 for further proceedings and reception of evidence on the Japanese law on divorce the petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce filed by a Filipino citizen who divorced her Japanese husband in 2007.
In 2015, respondent Jocelyn Asusano Kikuchi filed before the RTC a petition for judicial recognition her foreign divorce. She claimed she married Fumio U. Kikuchi in 1993, and in 2007, they jointly filed for divorce before the City Hall of Sakado City, Saitama Prefecture. The Sakado City Mayor issued an Acceptance Certificate stating that her and Fumio’s written notification of divorce had been accepted. The Acceptance Certificate was accompanied by an Authentication from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
The RTC granted Jocelyn’s petition, holding that the latter was able to establish the fact of divorce and the national law of Japan. The Republic, through the Office of the Solicitor General, moved to reconsider the RTC decision, but its motion was denied. The Republic then appealed before the Court of Appeals (CA), which denied the same, prompting the former to elevate the matter before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court found the Republic’s petition meritorious.
The Court held that while Jocelyn established the fact of divorce by submitting the Acceptance Certificate as authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, she was not able to establish the law of Japan on divorce.
The Court underscored that for a petition for judicial recognition of foreign divorce to prosper, the party pleading it must prove the fact of divorce and the national law of the foreign spouse.
Under Article 26 of Executive Order No. 209, series of 1987, as amended, or The Family Code of the Philippines, a divorce between a foreigner and a Filipino may be recognized in the Philippines as long as it was validly obtained according to the foreign spouse’s national law.
Before a foreign divorce decree can be recognized by the court, the party pleading it must first prove the fact of divorce and its conformity to the foreign law allowing it.
To prove that the divorce was valid under Japanese laws, Jocelyn submitted a photocopy of the English translation of the Civil Code of Japan, published by Eibun-Horei-Sha, Inc. and stamped with “LIBRARY, Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan, 2627 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City.”
The Court was not convinced. It held that such document is devoid of any probative value. “Not being an official translation, the document submitted by Jocelyn does not prove the existing law on divorce in Japan. Unfortunately, without such evidence, there is nothing on record to establish that the divorce between Jocelyn and Fumio was validly obtained and is consistence with the Japanese law on divorce,” it said.
It added: “Given that Jocelyn was able to prove the fact of divorce but not the Japanese law on divorce, a remand of the case rather than its outright dismissal is proper. This is consistent with the policy of liberality that the Court has adopted in cases involving the recognition of foreign decrees to Filipinos in mixed marriage.”
Thus, the Supreme Court granted the petition and reversed and set aside the assailed November 15, 2018 Decision of the CA.
FULL TEXT: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/29085/