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Just as the divorce bill was approved by the House on its third and final reading, I got an email from a reader asking me to present more balanced views about the pros and cons of divorce.
One of my friends rather dismissively told me to tell the reader to refer to Google, but I said I would answer him politely instead.
My opinion on the matter is simple and straightforward: Every civilized society should allow the legal, and as much as possible painless, dissolution of a marriage should the parties involved wish to do so. While it remains debatable that our own particular society is a civilized one, what with grandstanding lunatic presidents ordering state forces to shoot female rebels in the vagina, it nevertheless behooves any government to provide sensible and practical legal options when a marriage ends.
Because let’s face it, happily ever after is not quite everyone’s reality. Marriages end. Not all marriages end, of course. But enough marriages end to merit a law allowing divorce to be sought and granted on any number of reasonable grounds.
One could argue that there are legal avenues available for couples seeking to dissolve their marriages, such as legal annulment and legal separation. However, obtaining a decree of annulment is a tiresome, protracted, costly, and bureaucracy-riddled process that seems to require subterfuge much more than truthfulness, as the admissible grounds applicable to the parties sometimes compel them to go to ridiculous lengths to present their spouses as psychologically incapacitated or cruel. In fact, the more psychopathic they make each other seem, the better chances of getting their marriage annulled. But why add a layer of manufactured insanity to a fractured relationship that may already be brimming with acrimony?
According to Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines, the following are legal grounds for filing a petition for annulment of marriage:
(1) Either party was 18 years of age or over but below 21, and the marriage was solemnized without the consent of his parents, guardian, or person having substitute parental authority over the party, in that order, unless after attaining the age of 21, he/she freely cohabited with the other party;
(2) Either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;
(3) Consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterwards, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other;
(4) The consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other;
(5) Either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; or
(6) Either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable.
Let’s say you were way over 21 when you got married; you weren’t tricked or drugged into marriage; you contracted marriage of your own free will, being of sound mind and body; you’re not crazy—yet; you’re not impotent, and you don’t have AIDS. But you want out of a marriage that no longer works for you and your spouse. Perhaps one of you is having an affair. Or you’ve grown apart and no longer have a relationship that’s fulfilling and enriching. Perhaps your spouse is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. Perhaps one of you has serious alcohol or substance abuse issues. Perhaps it’s just over.
Are you condemned to remain married to each other because there is no other legal recourse but to stay together at least legally?
It may be that a couple may choose to remain together however dysfunctional or dangerous their marriage might be. But it is important that they have the option to end their marriage should they so wish, hence, the necessity of divorce.
God is believed by many here to have said that what he has joined together let no man separate. I would imagine that our notion of God has evolved sufficiently that he would, if indeed he exists, not wish for husband and wife, or for that matter wife and wife, or husband and husband, to live in misery, or in some cases, in fear for their lives. Surely, he would want spouses to be their best selves under the best possible conditions that allow them to actualize their potential as human beings and find happiness, fulfillment, and meaning—making them better partners in future relationships.
I’ve admittedly mixed Maslow and Hitchens (not to mention a bit of Stephen Fry) with God (quel heresy!) and threw in the unavoidable splash of Oprah, but my point is, whether a marriage is solemnized in a church or a Hindu ceremony or in a city hall, it has no legal leg to stand on, so to speak, unless it has been civilly contracted, as Jerry Hall was said to have to have discovered, to her dismay, when she sought to divorce Mick Jagger. Which is all moot anyway because she then went on to marry Rupert Murdoch, arguably worth more than Sir Mick, albeit less virile at his rather advanced age. But girlfriend’s set for life.
So, you might marry in church, but if you want out, you divorce according to the law. Because, you know, God as most people here like to think of him, isn’t exactly disposed to putting asunder what he supposedly joined together. So, you’re better off heading to court. And you’ll need that legal document to change your name, divide your assets, sue for custody of your children, and so on.
It’s not my place to say whether a couple should divorce or not, even if in some cases it’s evident—and necessary—that they do. The decision to divorce is rarely taken lightly, and it is something the two parties involved need to discuss and resolve. But divorce should be an option available to them.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
For comments and questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
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