DIVORCE … Why Not?

1. Divorce in the Philippines is not legal but it looks like there are more couples getting an annulment. Isn’t this enough reason to legalize divorce?

The increasing numbers may be due to a greater awareness of this procedure than before. We get to know more about annulments or separations today especially if they involve movie or society personalities. The media loves to elaborate on the details but no one seems to be paying attention to the millions of good marriages around, which do not see print.

2. The Philippines is now the ONLY country (aside from the Vatican) where divorce is not legal. Isn’t that rather strange?

Even if all the countries in the world, except ours, have legalized divorce, this is not a forceful reason for us to have it. If our Constitution is the only one in the world that guarantees the protection of the institution of marriage as a lasting and permanent union, then this unique and fundamental law must be something to be proud of! (Article XV, Sec. 2 “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State”).

A lasting marriage stabilizes the family and society as a whole. Divorce divides and destroys the family. Marriage is not a 50-50 arrangement. Divorce is. Marriage has to be 100-100. “It isn’t about dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got.” If one gives 80, then the other must give a 120.

3. If the criteria for granting a divorce are well thought of and strict, those applying for divorce can be forewarned that they must have a truly valid case to pursue its filing. Would this be another convincing reason for legalizing divorce?

Most countries where divorce is legal have now gone a step further down by accepting what is called a “no fault divorce”. This means that couples do not need a valid or compelling reason to separate; only a simple agreement to end the marriage is enough. This paves the way for flimsy excuses (or none) to be legal grounds for ending a marriage. The petitioner for divorce could cite “irreconcilable differences” without having to validate what he or she means.

4. Divorce advocates argue that it is a solution to failed, if not oppressive and dehumanizing unions. Shouldn’t divorce be a consideration to properly address this and other irreconcilable differences between married couples?

If a spouse proves not only to be overbearing but also abusive and cruel, or if there are situations in which living together becomes practically impossible, there are sufficient provisions in the Family Code that provide for legal separation of the spouses. In some cases, there is even annulment of voidable marriages. There are also salutary provisions in Republic Act No. 9262 (An Act defining Violence against Women and their Children, providing for protective measures for victims, prescribing penalties therefore, and for other purposes) for the protection of women and their children. Legal Separation may be the only recourse to ensure not only the legal rights and care of the children but also spousal support, visitation rights, etc.

Divorce must NEVER be considered. There is no difficult situation that cannot be addressed in an adequate way. Many difficult situations are worsened by the stubborn and blind passions of hate or indecisions caused by infidelity or an unmentioned third party. Behind most divorces in the West is an untold story of irretrievable loss and betrayal by one or the other. The marriage fails because one or the other party wanted it to fail.

5. Please explain the following terms further – Legal Separation, Annulment, Declaration of Nullity

Legal separation allows the parties to live separately, but the marriage is not dissolved and neither party can contract marriage with a new partner.
Civil Annulment recognizes the existence of a marriage until the time it is invalidated. The consent of one or both parties to the marriage must be proven to be faulty at the time of the exchange of vows. After an annulment, parties are restored to their single status.
Declaration of nullity means that there was no valid marriage at all in the first place. The parties could remarry afterwards because they have, technically, never been married.

6. But divorce advocates insist that everyone deserves to have another chance to be happy or at least have the right to re-marry. Why not?

This argument is incorrect. There is NO GUARANTEE that the next union will be happy and successful. In fact, studies in the U. S. prove that first marriages are the ones that really last and remarriages ultimately fail. See “The High Failure Rate of Second and Third Marriages” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201202/the-high-failure-rate-second-and-third-marriages).

If legal separation, annulment and declarations of nullity are juridical options which are already available, why would one want a divorce that will ultimately hurt the family and damage society? Difficult marriages can be repaired. There are programs that couples can attend to help them out. Besides divorce being costly, it becomes an easy way out, a way to end a marriage in order to remarry or to start a new life without the burden of a family.

7. How costly is divorce?

Church laws are against divorce and Civil laws should not favor divorce. If we speak here of financial costs, yes, it is costly for not everyone will be able to afford it.

In addition, having another family will mean more expenses to support both families. The effects of divorce are not limited to the incremental financial expenses. Studies have shown the destructive consequences of divorce: the devastating emotional and psychological effects on the separating spouses and the children. The children of divorce will become the parents of tomorrow. They may also fail to prioritize the strength of their families.

8. But these are more of an exception and it affects only certain cases. The granting of divorce may even be simpler and cheaper in the long run, isn’t it?

Divorce also damages the stability and unity of the family, which is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith.

If proponents of divorce claim that this will be cheaper than other legal options, they should instead encourage the Government to make the present options more affordable.

Couples may try to convince themselves that it is a simple matter and that everything will end in a peaceful and amicable way. Unspoken and undefined, but clearly evident, are the layers of pain and hurt underneath that falsely “calm” façade of most of those undergoing divorce. You can’t just commit your life to a person and then let it go. Divorce causes trauma to the abandoned spouse and unspoken pain to the departing spouse, however indifferent he or she may pretend to be.

Couples, who fail to patch up their differences, blame each other and then choose to separate. Separation and divorce adversely affect children’s values system as well as their emotional growth. When children were involved, social studies have shown that divorce was a life-changing, negative experience that altered their childhood, adolescence and adulthood. In addition, divorce increased problems associated with a missing parent or parents — juvenile delinquency, lying, criminality, and school dropout. Some effects can be staggering like drugs and even suicide!

9. A recent survey showed 60 percent of Filipinos want divorce made legal. Why does the Catholic Church still insist on not legalizing what most Filipinos (including their flock) are urging them to do?

The Catholic Church cannot conform her teachings on preferences that are suggested by surveys, most of which are emotionally driven and difficult to translate to relevant actions. The sanctity of marriage is embodied in the moral code that is eternal and immutable. The Church, in objecting to legalize divorce, is reiterating a position she has held since the time of Christ. The Church doctrine on divorce is unchangeable because it is a Divine Law. Those in favor of divorce and re-marriage are effectively claiming human laws are superior to God’s laws.

10. What do you think are reasons why marriages fail to work?

There are many possible reasons, and foremost is the lack of preparation. Most couples whose marriages failed have entered into it impulsively or for the wrong reasons. An example is when the marriage begins because the girlfriend has become pregnant before marriage or when the couple makes a hasty decision based on physical attraction.

While attraction may have resulted in dating, it must develop into a commitment, a covenant, something spiritual. Pleasure without commitment is not love at all. Human love should become conjugal love, the characteristic of which is complimentarity, a convergence of aspirations and dreams. Divorce is a betrayal of love. This is precisely why it is important for children to learn fidelity and commitment from their own parents’ marriage.

11. Is this the only reason for what is termed as failure in marriage?

A common reason for married couples who suddenly consider divorce is selfishness of one or the other. Selfishness to appreciate that everyone changes through the years and to make allowances for it. Selfishness to depreciate a spouse who has less education or a spouse whom one believes he or she has outgrown and is no longer “suitable” for his or her professional or intellectual life.

Another reason is that many couples do not work to keep their marriage alive, engaging and worthwhile. After a time, they take each other for granted. They no longer ensure their best manners for their spouses. Indifference leads to lack of respect and eventually one or the other “falls out of love.” While there is something stable in marriage and love, maybe those whose marriages “failed” did not nurture and attend to this love every single day of their married life.

12. You must be talking of easy-to-mend marriages or minor problems that can easily be solved. What about marriages that failed because of major difficulties? Or… what if the marriage is not working, in this case, there is a failure in love isn’t it?

Most marriages go through situations that make the couple feel that the marriage is threatened or that love has gone. Instead of giving up, the couple must find a new way to make things work. If the issues appear irreconcilable from the viewpoint of the couple, they may need professional help or an external party to guide them.

13. What can be done to save a marriage?

There may be an urgent need for professional help with a marriage counselor to help them work it out. Unfortunately, there are spouses who may refuse to give counseling a try. Problems are part of life. The existence of marital difficulties can be a means for them to work on their love and respect for each other. They should not only resuscitate their affection, but also have to learn to forgive each other because mercy is the perfection of love.

To save a marriage, it is most important that couples recognize their own failings first and secondly, to be willing to negotiate and work out a solution.

A failure of marriage does not mean an invalid marriage. It can mean that the parties involved should wake up and make up, rather than think their marriage has to end.

There is no perfect marriage as there is no perfect love in this world. Marriage and love have to be worked on and developed in time, using whatever problems and difficulties the couple may meet, to learn virtues and thus strengthen their love and their life together. Young love should develop into a lasting love and, in old age, into devotion.

14. How must one prepare oneself before getting married?

Couples must know, before marriage, the necessary requirements to get married like consent, validity and the dispositions of those entering into marriage. They must primarily focus on the sacredness of marriage. Unity and the indissolubility of marriage are necessary for the pact of love to last. They must know that marriage is a life-long commitment of mutual, exclusive, total, irrevocable and sincere self-giving and sacrifice. It is entered into with open eyes, a lot of reflection and logical thinking, maturity and a lot of preparation knowing the other person extremely well and knowing that the union is not just based on mere passion or convenience. In other words, those contemplating marriage must make a sincere and diligent effort to know and understand the future partner’s character and background including that of his/her family.

Marriage fulfills natural law. It is not just a piece of paper signed in a ceremony. It is a promise, a vow, and there is a purpose to this vow. The vow keeps the bridegroom and his bride together for life in an unbreakable bond of love, respect, trust and safety needed to safeguard a very clear outcome of the union – a home, a family, children. Every baby deserves a family and every child has the right to have both a father and a mother together.

Rosie B. Luistro

Founding President (currently in the Board of Advisers)
Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. (ALFI)
May 2015