Senate panel gives nod to divorce bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — A Senate panel has approved a consolidated bill expanding the grounds for the dissolution of marriage and providing for divorce.

Senate Bill 2443 was approved by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relation and Gender Equality, which is headed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

She and Senators Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Pia Cayetano, and Imee Marcos are listed as co-authors of the consolidated bill.

The bill said that while the state continues to protect the family, its duty also includes protecting the dignity of individuals, guarantee human rights, and uphold the equality of both men and women.

"Towards this end, the State shall adopt a divorce policy in keeping with the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, the rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other International Human Rights Instruments of which the Philippines is a party," it said.

It added either or both spouses can seek divorce based on the following:

- they have been separated for five years, whether it be continuous or broken, without a judicial decree of separation

- the commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after the celebration of their marriage

- the grounds for legal separation under article 55 of the Family Code or any other special law

- a final decree of absolute divorce validly obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by any Filipino citizen, regardless of who they married

- irreconcilable marital differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage, despite earnest efforts at reconciliation, subject to a cooling-off period of sixty (60) days pursuant to Section 8 of this Act

- a marriage annulment or dissolution, duly authorized by a church or religious entity, or a marriage termination duly authorized by customs and practices traditionally recognized, accepted and observed by an ICC 15 or IP to which the parties belong, having the same effect as a decree of divorce, annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity issued by a competent court.

It also said a petition for divorce can be filed provided there is a joint plan for parenthood for the support, custody, and living arrangement for common children.

"If the court determines that the joint plan for parenthood is adequate to protect the rights and interests of the common children, the court shall approve the joint plan for parenthood together with the grant of a divorce decree if warranted," it said.

Applicants may also submit evidence of indigency if necessary, and the court will waive fees, appoint counsel, and provide experts to help the petitioners and their children.