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3 Types of Separation: Everything You Need to Know

Because the Philippines currently doesn’t have a divorce law, you may find your options limited if you wish to separate from your spouse. Currently, a separating couple has three options under the Family Code: legal separation, nullity of marriage, or annulment. The best course of action varies case to case. The couple will have to take several factors into account, such as the circumstances of their marriage, the grounds for their separation, the cost of the legal process, and whether they want the marital ties to be severed or not. 

In this article, we break down everything you need to know about legal separation, nullity of marriage, and annulment.

Nullity of Marriage

A Declaration of Nullity of Marriage applies to a marriage that is null and void from the beginning, due to it missing one or more of the essential or formal requisites of marriage. Because the marriage was never valid, the marital ties are severed and both parties will be able to remarry. 

Grounds for Nullity of Marriage

Again, a married couple can file for nullity of marriage if said marriage is considered void ab initio, or void from the beginning. According to Article 35 of the Family Code, the following marriages fall into this category:

  1. Those contracted by any party below eighteen years of age even with the consent of parents or guardians;
  2. Those solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages unless such marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to do so;
  3. Those solemnized without a marriage license, except those covered in Chapter 2 of the Family Code (Marriages Exempted from License Requirement);
  4. Those bigamous or polygamous marriages not falling under Article 41;
  5. Those contracted through mistake of one contracting party as to the identity of the other; and
  6. Those subsequent marriages that are void under Article 53.

In addition to those under Article 35, the following marriages are also considered void from the beginning: 

  1. Void marriages due to psychological incapacity, as stated under Article 36;
  2. Incestuous marriages, as stated under Article 37; and
  3. Marriages against public policy, as stated under Article 38.


You can get your marriage annulled if it was valid at first, but because of the existence of the grounds under Article 45 of the Family Code, the marriage will be annulled. This is in contrast to the declaration of nullity of marriage, which can only apply to marriages that are null from the beginning.

Grounds for Annulment

According to Article 45 of the Family Code, you can get an annulment on any of the following grounds:

  • Either party was aged between 18 and 21 years old at the time of marriage, and no parental consent was given, and the action for annulment was filed within 5 years after attaining the age of 21;
  • Either party is of unsound mind and the action for annulment was filed at any time before the death of either party, or during a lucid interval, or after regaining sanity;
  • The consent of either party was obtained by fraud and the action for annulment was filed within 5 years after the discovery of the fraud;
  • The consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation, or extreme influence, and the action for annulment was filed within five years from the time the force, intimidation, or undue influence disappeared or ceased;
  • Either party is physically unable to consummate the marriage, and the action for annulment was filed within 5 years after the marriage; or
  • Either party has been diagnosed with a serious or incurable sexually transmitted disease, and the action for annulment was filed within 5 years after the marriage.

Process of Annulment and Nullity of Marriage 

The main difference between annulment and declaration of nullity of marriage is whether or not the marriage was considered valid from the beginning. Because of this, there are many similarities between the steps in filing for the two separation procedures.

With that in mind, here is a rough outline of the steps in filing for annulment of declaration of nullity of marriage. However, note that there will still be differences between the two procedures and that some situations may add or skip over certain steps, depending on the circumstances.

  1. Preparation. Firstly, you’ll need to hire a lawyer with a specialty in family law. Your lawyer will discuss your case with you and help you with the submission of requirements and drafting of the petition. 
  2. Psychiatric Evaluation. If your ground for annulment or declaration of nullity of marriage is psychological incapacity, you will also need to contact an expert witness, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  3. Filing of Petition. You and your lawyer can file a petition for nullity of marriage/annulment in the Regional Trial Court designated as a Family Court.
  4. Summons. Once the petition is filed, the other party (now known as the respondent) would have fifteen days to file his or her answer.
  5. Preliminary Hearing. Both parties will have to attend the preliminary hearing, wherein a pre-trial order is issued.
  6. Hearing. You, as the petitioner, will have to present your evidence to prove the existence of the grounds for nullity of marriage. If your ground is psychological incapability, this is when you would have your expert witness to step in and prove that the party is psychologically incapable to comply with the marital obligations of marriage.
  7. Judge’s Decision. Finally, the case will be submitted for resolution. The judge’s final decision may come 1 to 3 months after the order is issued. It will be considered final if neither party attempts to get a repeal.

Legal Separation

Legal separation is a legal remedy for couples suffering from a problematic marriage. It differs from both annulment and declaration of nullity of marriage in that the marriage is still considered valid and subsisting. Because of this, neither party is allowed to remarry in the future.  However, it does allow them to live apart and own separate assets. By doing this, the guilty party cannot inherit any of the innocent party’s assets.

One difference between a legal separation, an annulment, and a declaration of nullity of marriage is that legal separations are almost always borne from a conflict between the two parties. In contrast, a separating couple doesn’t necessarily have to have conflict to get annulled or file for a declaration of nullity of marriage.

Grounds for Legal Separation

The primary purpose of a legal separation is to provide a way for problematic marriages to separate safely, even if the marriage bond is not dissolved. Under Article 55 of the Family Code, one may file a petition for legal separation within 5 years from the time of the occurrence of the following grounds:

  1. Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner;
  2. Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;
  3. Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;
  4. Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned;
  5. Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent;
  6. Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent;
  7. Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad;
  8. Sexual infidelity or perversion;
  9. Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner; or
  10. Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.

Process of Legal Separation

In contrast to the process of an annulment, legal separation is a more combative court case. Here is an overview of how a legal separation is processed. Note that these steps may vary depending on the situation and circumstances.

  1. Preparation of the Petition. The process of preparing your petition is akin to the process for annulment. You would first need the help of a family lawyer to help you with drafting your petition. Your lawyer will then help you with your requirements. Your petition will also include information on your shared children and your properties.
  2. Filing of Petition. Again, this is similar to the process of filing for annulment. Your lawyer will file your petition in the Family Court. Once your petition has been filed, you and your spouse can begin living separately.
  3. Summons. Around one or two weeks after you file your petition, the court will summon your spouse to court. The spouse then has to file his or her answer within fifteen days.
  4. Cooling-off Period. According to Article 58 of the Family Code, “an action for legal separation shall in no case be tried before six months shall have eclipsed since the filing of the petition.” This is to give separating spouses time and space away from each other. If the couple reconciles and decides to stay together, they can cancel the petition before it goes to court. Otherwise, if the cooling-off period comes and goes without any reconciliation, the process shall continue.
  5. Preliminary Hearing. Both parties will have to attend the preliminary hearing. You, as the petitioner, will present your evidence on the grounds of legal separation. Your spouse, as the respondent, can then defend him/herself.
  6. Decision. The court will submit the case for resolution. Similarly to annulment of nullity of marriage, you may have to wait for 1 to 3 months for the judge’s decision. 
  7. Decree of Legal Separation. If your petition was granted, you can finally begin tying up the loose ends. You will have to discuss property division, custody of children, visitation rights, child support, and more with your spouse. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this process may take several months or years to finish. 


Whether or not the Philippines will ever get a divorce law remains unclear, though there are steps being taken to legalize it. For now, any couple looking to get separated can still consider their existing options carefully, so they can decide which is the best move for them.

If you are in need of a lawyer specializing in Family Law, you can contact Sadsad Tamesis Legal and Accountancy Firm’s team of lawyers today.

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