The first divorce in the Philippines we were involved in was our own!
I met my wife-to-be back in 2003 while I was attending a conference in Cebu. She was with her brother who was also attending that conference about tropical forestry.
We got to know each other better over the following weeks and months and I had decided to think more about living in the Philippines because of the beneficial effects of the warm weather. In New Zealand I suffered considerable discomfort due to arthritis pain in my joints.
On my previous forestry visits to the Philippines I had become aware that my arthritic pain levels substantially reduced even after a few days here. I wondered about that and quickly came to the conclusion that the main difference was the warmer temperatures between New Zealand and the Philippines.
I weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of both countries and although the Philippines has numerous domestic disadvantages such as pollution, highly salted foods, poor hygiene practices and overcrowding, the prospect of extended periods of pain-free living seemed attractive. Consequently in early 2004 on my retirement I arrived in Davao and with my future wife’s help rented a small house. It was located in a suburb we quickly discovered to be prone to flooding during even light rainfall.
After a year I decided it was time to relocate to higher land and having experienced living with my lady for one year and learning a lot more about each other we decided to purchase a lot and build a house to suit ourselves. After a further year building and living in the house we came under some subtle pressure from her parents which suggested they would prefer us to be formally married.
Both of us were willing to do that but the problem of “No Divorce in the Philippines” raised all sorts of issues for us. Our obvious solution was to apply to the Court for an Annulment. It is claimed that an annulment in the Philippines is the only way to be free from a marriage, but we later discovered that divorce IS possible.
We made an appointment with a recommended attorney and arrived at his office exactly on time. He was not there and his office lady suggested we wait. After waiting an hour I was becoming annoyed so phoned his cell phone from his office line. He sleepily acknowledged that he had forgotten our 9am appointment and made another appointment for 1pm.
We returned to his office at 1pm to find he had left a message with the office lady to reschedule our appointment to the late afternoon. We left his office and walked down the road. Without any hesitation I went into the first law office I spotted and asked to speak with an attorney.
We were shown into an office and the guy lounging behind the desk reading the newspaper looked up and, yes what do you want? I curtly replied that a little professional courtesy would be nice to start our business off. He totally ignored me and spoke to my wife in Tagalog. After a few minutes of my wife translating back and forth describing the nature of our business with him I interrupted and said if you cannot address your questions directly to us and in comprehensible English then I am wasting my time here. He just looked at me so I got up to leave. I rudely said “all I want to know is about divorce and annulment in the Philippines and where to start, but you do not seem interested”.
He tried to convince me that “he was the one” as they say here who could solve all of my problems. I asked how many annulments he had successfully processed through the courts, how long did it take and how much did it cost?
He mumbled that every case is different therefore he could not answer. I said OK I will think about it and maybe I might come back. As I stood to leave he said there is a consultancy fee to pay before you leave! I never answered and encouraged my wife to leave the office first. As I opened the exit door he said, what about my 3,000 Peso fee? I said you told me nothing so that’s how much I will pay and if you do not like it, then sue me!
Later that week I did shop around through a couple of attorneys other folk knew and learned that an annulment in the Philippines would cost in the vicinity of 350,000 Pesos of which 200,000 was payable on acceptance of a case! Neither attorneys would give any guarantee that the petition would be successful.
I also learned that numerous annulment petitions are denied because the grounds cited in the petition were sometimes inappropriate and that the time period to achieve an annulment in the Philippines was anywhere between 2 and 3 years – assuming the respondent does not want to counter claim or argue the case.
A few weeks later we met some acquaintances for coffee and one of their friend’s guests introduced himself as Judge so and so. I immediately recognised an opportunity to perhaps get some good information for the price of a cup of coffee. I find that inevitably I get stuck with the bill when we meet my wife’s friends and have a meal or drinks.
I mentioned to the judge about the poor service we had received from attorneys and he nodded sympathetically. He asked about the advice I was seeking so between my wife and her friends they told him everything. He looked thoughtful and said “let’s meet here tomorrow, just me, you and your wife”.
The next afternoon we met again and he gave us some extremely interesting information. The information was about the laws that even many qualified and practising lawyers were unaware, or unsure of. For the price of another cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake he said he would help us out and did so. He explained to us exactly how to go about obtaining a divorce in the Philippines – and we did so. Four months later we were able to get married.
Of course it did cost a lot of money and a huge amount of effort but nowhere near as much as applying for an annulment in the Philippines through an attorney.
So that was how we decided to help other couples to get a divorce in the Philippines quickly, using the method we learned. We have fine-tuned the process and trimmed a lot of time and cost out of the equation. Why not let us do the same for you?