Divorce and Annulment, Marriage and the Family, the Individual and Society

Manila Bulletin, June 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Divorce and Annulment, Marriage and the Family, the Individual and Society


MANILA, Philippines - I think the issue behind divorce isn't whether the state should protect the family. It's about the extent to which the state should preserve the family, which often comes in conflict with individual interests.Divorce might already be dead in the halls of Congress, but it's still an issue worth tackling because it is important to examine our most deeply-held beliefs as a society from time to time.A society is analogous to a single individual, and like any individual, it must ask itself whether its values are still worth holding onto, and whether it lives up to its values in the first place.In the case of divorce, those values seem to be the stability of marriage, the preservation of the family, and the rights of individuals to pursue their own happiness.It is impossible to discuss divorce without getting into moral (if not necessarily religious) issues, but it is first of all worth saying that divorce is a tricky legal concept.As I understand it, divorce is one of three general ways of ending a marriage arrangement, the other two being legal separation and annulment. The main difference is in how the marriage bond is affected. In legal separation, the marriage bond stays but the spouses are no longer obligated to live together. In many countries, this is often the first step to divorce. In an annulment, the marriage contract is declared null and void; there shouldn't have been (or there was no) marriage to begin with, because the contract itself is flawed in some way (the honeymoon never happened, you got married at gun-point, etc).In contrast, divorce happens when there is a perfectly valid marriage, but for some reason that marriage has broken down (unfaithful husband, battered wife, etc). In annulment, there was no marriage to begin with. On the other hand, divorce is effectively an admission that a marriage exists, and has broken down, even failed.The rub is in the procedure. Divorce is easier because it is generally quicker and allows for a greater range of reasons in ending the marriage. In contrast, an annulment is a complex and lengthy legal procedure that is extremely expensive, and in many cases it is difficult to qualify for one. In the Philippines, people who might resort to annulment would be forced to go extraordinary lengths (feigning insanity, for example) to prove their marriage was invalid in the first place, even if the reasons for breaking up are entirely different.I think the issue behind divorce isn't whether the state should protect the family; as a matter of fact, most states understand this. …

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