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Remarrying the ex-wife

The prohibition of divorce between two Filipino nationals does not necessarily prevent the same Philippine marriages from being dissolved in other jurisdictions.

What happens if a Filipino divorces his Filipino spouse, marries a US citizen, obtains his green card, subsequently divorces his US citizen spouse, then remarries the Filipino ex-spouse (again)?

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Will the subsequent remarriage to the Filipino spouse be recognized by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services as an approvable petition?

Lisa and Frank have been married for 10 years and have two sons. Mary was Frank’s former college sweetheart and they met again after 20 years on Facebook.

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Mary is now a US citizen and during a visit in Manila, she met up with Frank. That meeting led from one thing to another and rekindled their love affair.

Frank traveled to the United States as a visitor and filed a divorce petition against his wife Lisa. After the divorce judgment was issued, he married Mary and they both lived in Las Vegas.

Frank eventually got his green card through Mary’s petition.  Slowly their relationship soured. Frank realized that his marriage to Mary was not working out and regretted his decision abandoning Lisa and his two sons. He subsequently divorced Mary and returned to the Philippines. He planned to remarry Lisa and file a petition for her and their sons.

Will Frank succeed in petitioning Lisa and his family?

Consequence of divorce

Under Philippine law, a foreign divorce judgment is recognized as valid only if one of the parties is a foreign national.

In the case of Frank, he was a Filipino national when he divorced Lisa and, therefore, his divorce to Lisa is not recognized as valid in the Philippines.  But his divorce is valid in the US where it was obtained. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recognizes the validity of his divorce, thus, Frank was able to obtain his green card via petition by his second spouse (Mary).

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The divorce of Frank from Mary is recognized both in the Philippines and the US where it was obtained. Mary, being a US national, may validly divorce a Filipino national. Thus, under US law, Frank is now in “single” status. However, under Philippine law, Frank is still “married” to Lisa as their divorce was never valid under Philippine Law.

Thus, remarrying Lisa in the Philippines may not be legally possible because Frank and Lisa’s marriage in the first place was never dissolved.  Such remarriage would only be possible if both Frank and Lisa are in the United States (or some other jurisdiction where their initial divorce is recognized).

Good faith marriage

The more critical issue that Frank has to face is whether he can maintain his green card status long enough to obtain US citizenship or to petition his first wife (assuming they successfully remarry).

There are times, usually with short-lived marital relationships, where the good faith intention of the party marrying the US citizen is put into question. Hopefully, Mary did not write a letter to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services indicating that Frank committed fraud in marrying her merely to get immigration benefits.

If there is such evidence, Frank may be facing a possible rescission of his green card and will be prevented from petitioning his first spouse or his children. Thus, whether his petition will be approvable or not, will depend on whether or not his marriage to US citizen spouse Mary was done in good faith or not.

(The author may be reached at [email protected], facebook.com
/tancincolaw, www.tancinco.com or [02] 721-1963.)

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TAGS: Divorce, Filipino ex-spouse, Filipino nationals, Green card, relationship, US Citizen
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