Celina Marie T. Panaligan
On 24 January 2023, the Supreme Court en banc issued a Resolution approving the (1) amended guidelines to validate compliance with the jurisdictional requirements in petitions for declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, annulment of voidable marriage, and legal separation, and (2) amendments to Section 4 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC and Section 2(c) of A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC, or the Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages and the Rule on Legal Separation, respectively.
Amended Guidelines to Validate Compliance with Jurisdictional Requirements in Petitions for Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Marriage, Annulment of Marriage, and Legal Separation
To validate compliance with the jurisdictional requirements for nullity, annulment, and legal separation cases, the amended guidelines (“Guidelines”) now require a sworn statement from the petitioner’s counsel of record stating that after a reasonable inquiry, he or she has verified the authenticity of the petitioner’s proof of barangay residency showing that the petitioner had been residing in the barangay for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition. The Guidelines exempt a petitioner from complying with this requirement in cases where physical absence in the residence is excusable, such as when the petitioner is abroad or has left the habitual residence for just causes, which facts must be cited in the verification attached to the petition. The counsel of record must also indicate in the sworn statement that he or she has sufficiently explained to the petitioner the rationale for the residency requirement for purposes of compliance with the rules on venue.
If the petitioner spouse has left the habitual residence due to just causes, such as violence committed against him or her by the respondent spouse, he or she shall be exempt from submitting the supporting documents to prove habitual residence in the barangay as long as he or she cites these just causes in the Verification attached to the petition.
Meanwhile, if both parties are residing abroad for employment, business, education, or another purpose, the petitioner is allowed to submit other documents in lieu of the regular supporting documents proving habitual residence in the Philippines. These documents include a sworn certification from the appropriate Philippine Consulate that the petitioner is temporarily residing abroad for employment, business, education, or any other purpose; any sufficient proof of the habitual place of residence of any of the parties or the place where they last resided as husband and wife; and a sworn statement of the petitioner’s counsel of record stating that he or she has sufficiently explained to the petitioner the rationale for the residency requirement for purposes of venue and the consequences of non-compliance therewith.
Other amendments introduced in the Guidelines emphasize the importance of compliance with the residency requirements and proving actual residency of the respondent to ensure proper summons to the latter, making the petition dismissible without prejudice for noncompliance.
Amendments to the Rule on Declaration of Nullity and Annulment of Marriages, and Legal Separation
Based on the latest amendments to Section 4 of A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC (Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages) and Section 2(c) of A.M. No. 02-11-11-SC (Rule on Legal Separation) (“Amendments”), if both petitioner and respondent are residing abroad for employment, business, education, or another purpose, the petition for nullity or annulment may be filed in the habitual residence of either party, at the election of the petitioner, or in the place where the petitioner and respondent last resided as husband and wife in the Philippines.
On the other hand, if only the petitioner is residing abroad, the appropriate venue for filing the petition is the place of residence of the respondent in the Philippines.
The Amendments make it possible for the petitions for nullity, annulment, or legal separation to proceed despite the physical absence of either or both parties in the Philippines.