divorce in the Philippines

Cebu parents, children say divorce is a chance to start anew

John Sitchon

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Cebu parents, children say divorce is a chance to start anew

PARENTS. According to the National Council for Solo Parents (NCSP) in the Visayas, the province of Cebu has at least 24,000 solo parents.


After years of separation and strife, a mother of two highlights the urgent need for accessible and realistic divorce options in the Philippines

CEBU, Philippines – After dealing with separation and strife with her former partners, Christine Marie Ilagan, a 55-year-old mother of two, wants to start over again but on healthier terms.

By starting over again, she meant that she wanted to remarry and be with a partner who would not bring her the same turmoil that consumed most of her adult life.

In her early twenties, Ilagan married the father of her firstborn daughter, Christia. 

“It was a forced one because I got pregnant, but I was so loved by my in-laws. I even maintained a very good relationship with [the family]…but we were so young, I would have to say, we were 22—just right after graduation,” Ilagan told Rappler.

Ilagan understood why she needed to get married. She explained that her mother was a well-known member of their community and that having a daughter pregnant before getting married may have had negative connotations.

“My mom was a really strong, determined career woman who made ends meet, but on the other side, it was a different environment where he lived because his family is complete, loving, and it was Tatay who did the taking care of the family and Nanay stays at home,” Ilagan said.

“And that was the difference between the two of us. He may have not expressed it directly, but I believe that he wanted me to stay at home…and then, I was left all alone taking care of our daughter,” she added.

After seven years of disagreements, the couple later separated and Ilagan sought for an annulment. 

“There was already a subpoena that was given to my ex-husband. It’s just that the process was so long, expensive, and you had to look over everything so it didn’t really prosper,” Ilagan said.

In the Philippines, the cost for an annulment ranges from P150,000 to P300,000. This includes fees for lawyers, court charges, and other related expenditures. 

Ilagan’s ex-husband refused to cooperate with the annulment, despite her efforts to come to an agreement with him. 

“We just wanted to make things formal but he had a different mindset…just to put things in order because if he wanted to get married again, I wanted it too,” Ilagan said.

The mother believed that divorce would be a helpful alternative to the long and expensive process involved in an annulment. 

Realistic approach

University of the Philippines law professor Amando Virgil Ligutan told Rappler that divorce would be a realistic approach to terminating marriages.

He explained that in annulments, most petitioners, especially abused partners, try to prove a history of psychological incapacity of their spouses, which is a ground to nullify the marriage. This would entail interviewing family members and securing the services of a psychologist.

In legal separation, a petitioner can avail of the grounds of repeated physical violence or gross abuse of conduct without needing to prove psychological incapacity, but there would be no dissolution of marriage, only bed and board separation.

Under divorce, both grounds found in annulment and legal separation are recognized, making it easier for petitioners to attain the termination of the marriage without resorting to proving the history of psychological incapacity.

“What divorce seeks to do is to make the dissolution of marriage more realistic, more accessible, and more attuned with what’s happening on the ground,” Ligutan said.

In a Rappler Talk, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said that the House Bill 9349 or the divorce bill would provide a comprehensive, expeditious, and affordable divorce proceeding.

Cebu parents, children say divorce is a chance to start anew
On separation

Some time after her first separation, Ilagan fell in love again with another man and had Maxim, her son. At present, Maxim is a teacher at a Cebu-based private school who treats his students like they were his own children.

He believes it is a way of healing his inner child.

For most of his childhood, Maxim spent days reading books at home, keeping himself within their house to avoid seeing his father. 

“I didn’t have any emotional capacity to process because every day it was fight or flight. If my dad wasn’t throwing tantrums, it’s a good day. If he did, then, what story should I read next,” Maxim said.

He shared that his experience with his father had impacted his view of relationships, making him anxious about what his future marriage would look like. His father and mother were separated in 2011.

At present, members of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups have opposed the concept of divorce, claiming that it would cause more separations among families. 

“We fear that a separation cuts out something from us but in reality, if you talk to the children of divorce or children of separation, a lot of us think that separation can save what was left of the relationship or the respect,” Maxim said.

Maxim believed that the separation was necessary for both of his parents. According to him, if the divorce bill gets passed, his mother can finally remarry after trying so hard with the annulment.

“In my situation, the [separation] saved me from more abuse and it saved my mom from more despair,” Maxim said.

Loving is freeing

According to the National Council for Solo Parents (NCSP) in the Visayas, the province of Cebu has at least 24,000 solo parents. The NCSP recorded 54,000 solo-parent members in Central Visayas, as of 2023. 

“James”, an NCSP chairperson said that a majority of them are survivors of domestic abuse and individuals who have stopped living under the same roof with their former partners.

James is also a solo parent. He has a 17-year-old son named Clark. 

At age 2, Clark’s mother abandoned their family but eventually, James was able to find love again and married another woman.

“Unfortunately, my wife wanted me to decide between joining her in Manila or staying with my son. Of course, I chose my son who was already left by his mother,” James said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

James told Rappler that he advocated for divorce because he wanted to allow his current wife the freedom to find a partner who can commit to her with no restrictions. 

“Since she’s still around 33 years old, she still has a long life. Me? I’m 48. She can still find a worthy husband if only there was a divorce,” James said in Cebuano.

“This isn’t about me being selfish. I want to give my wife her freedom,” he said. – Rappler.com

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