Where Is Divorce Illegal?
Should divorce be illegal? There are two countries in the world where it is illegal to get a divorce.
In the Philippines and the Vatican City, people are prohibited from filing for divorce.
This group of countries used to include Malta, until the Mediterranean island legalized divorce by referendum in 2011.
For several years, people in the Philippines have been asking the question, ‘Should divorce be illegal?’
Divorce has been against the law since 1949 when the Civil Code was enacted.
Before 1949, divorce was legal at different times during the United States’ and the Japanese occupations of the southeast Asian archipelago.
A survey conducted back in 2011 revealed that 50 per cent of the population was in favour of legalizing divorce.
At least 90 per cent of the Filipino population identifies as Catholic, similar to the Catholic city-state of the Vatican.
Should Divorce Be Illegal?
The strongest arguments for making divorce legal are based on the high rates of domestic violence.
One in four married Filipino women has been assaulted by their husband, and spousal abuse is the most common type of violence experienced by women aged 15 to 49.
In March this year, a bill to legalize divorce was passed in the Lower House of Congress. This bill would give the court the power to end marriages deemed “irremediably broken” and allow divorcees to remarry members of the opposite sex.
However, the bill is not yet law.
There is one legal process in the Philippines that allows people to end their marriages, but it usually takes a long time and is very expensive. It is inaccessible to many people.
It is called an annulment, which is a civil procedure that declares a marriage as never validly existing in the first place.
Marriages can be annulled by proving the “psychological incapacity” of either spouse. That phrase can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
In Australia, divorce was essentially illegal up until the 1860s. In 1857, the British parliament passed the English Divorce Act, which made divorce legal. This meant that similar legislation could then be passed in the colonies.
After federation in 1901, Australia had control over its own marriage and divorce laws.
The Family Law Act of 1975 established a no-fault divorce. This meant that spouses did not have to prove grounds for divorce when they filed their application, only that the marriage had irretrievably broken down.
One year later, in 1976, there was a record number of divorces.
By making divorce legal and widely accessible in the Philippines, a similar phenomenon might happen there.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.