When I do an assessment of a potential partner visa applicant, I always feel a sense of relief for the client (and yes, also for us at Down Under Visa) when I see they have an uncomplicated life and are both legally free to marry. And I always feel sorry for them when I see that the Filipina lady is still legally married because that means they have some work and some stress ahead of them before they can start work on that partner visa or prospective marriage visa.
Why is it a problem when a Filipina is still married?
Clearly when someone is still married, they can’t just go and marry again. That’s called bigamy, and it’s a crime in Philippines as well as in Australia. And in Philippines, unlike Australia, dissolving a marriage through a no-fault divorce is not just a walk in the park.
Australia? One grounds! Incompatibility! One proof? Be apart for 12 months! Get an easy “divorce kit” from the Family Court and you can do it yourself. I did! Hearing took five minutes. Thump of the gavel and it was done.
Philippines? There are two countries remaining in the world that have no legal divorce. The Philippines and Vatican City. Even conservative old Ireland as taken that plunge. Personally? I well understand the motivation. Marriage has become a disposable arrangement in most of the world. Toss it away when “the magic has gone out of it” rather than knuckling down and working at it. I’m glad that my wife and myself are believers in hanging on no matter what, because I know we can survive whatever comes around the corner.
However I also well and truly understand that we all want a soul mate, and being trapped in a loveless marriage or where the husband ran off years before and there’s no chance in him returning, well sure. Everyone is entitled to happiness, and you can only truly sort out marriage problems if BOTH parties are prepared to work at it. Can’t do much on your own.
One of the issues here is that young men act like young men everywhere, and here they refuse to wear condoms. Babies happen to couples who are not ready and definitely not committed, and there is many a rush-marriage. Basically, they “settle” rather than choosing wisely. The young man decides he has more drinking and hanging-around to do, so he takes off. The single mum you meet has a remaining legal marriage to this dropkick, and you are stuck with a large obstacle to your own happiness. And as I explained, no no-fault divorce!
Annulment in the Philippines. Easy?
I’m sure annulments are described by many a four-letter word, but I doubt if “easy” is often one of them. Annulments are hard slog. I’ve explained in detail in other articles about the overall basis of annulling a marriage before, but in short it means this:
A marriage is a contract between two people that requires a commitment to a lifelong exclusive relationship. Like all contracts, they require that all parties to that contract understand fully what they are committing to. This is why you can’t get a drunk person or a 12 year old child to sign a contract, because they don’t understand what they are committing to.
Annulments are “a loophole” in the system basically. If you can establish that one or both parties were psychologically incapable of understanding the commitment they were asked to undertake when they walked down the aisle, the court can declare the marriage annulled on that basis. So definitely not a rubber stamp. The Family Code of the Philippines is there to preserve the Filipino marriage as the basis of a stable society, and they therefore don’t let them go easily. The annulment attorney needs to establish a strong case, and then present it to the Filipino court system.
Hard work! A lot of evidence to gather. Psychological reports. The works! Several hearings. And all via a busy court system with judges who seem to go on holidays and attend seminars a lot. Some of the attorneys like to promise 6 months, and some will present the client with different fees for different lengths of time. I’m sure there must be something against the rules about that. Invariably we get a lot of frustrated clients who hope like crazy that Down Under Visa have a solution to the hole they find themselves in.
Do we have a solution to long annulments?
We have no way of getting involved in the court system, sorry to say. The court system is how it is, and other than speedy no-fault divorces I don’t see that Australia has anything better. They exist to see justice done, and that takes precedence over convenience and always will.
The only real option to annulment is to consider a de facto relationship and applying for a partner visa on that basis. Fortunately that option is there, and if you find your annulment dragging it may well stand as a realistic option for you.
De facto relationship partner visas
It’s actually the same visa as a standard partner visa, ie. a Subclass 820 onshore partner visa or a Subclass 309 offshore partner visa which is applied-for in Philippines. The only difference is that it’s based on an established de facto relationship instead of based on a marriage. And when I say “established”, I mean ESTABLISHED! It’s not a visa to commence a de facto relationship, especially for those who think it’s a way of avoiding a lifelong commitment. The commitment comes first, and the visa application happens second!
Again, I’ve written lots of articles on the topic of establishing a de facto relationship. If you are already in one and have been in one for 12 months or more? Great! If you are almost there? We can give you guidance to ensure you have a solid case which the Embassy or Department will accept.
What if you haven’t even started? Never lived together at all? All is not lost. But you need to accept that it will take time, and you will need to be prepared to make effort and make changes in your lifestyle, and you need to truly be prepared to take the plunge and to start living a truly shared-life with your partner and to live as if you were married but without the piece of paper that makes it all legal. It’s going to take a year to do this, but if it looks like the annulment will take longer, what do you have to lose?
And if you still wish to marry, good news is that you can get a divorce for a Filipino marriage in Australia later and then marry in Australia. Yes, it can be done. I did it myself, and it was no harder than any other Australian divorce.
So let us know if you find yourselves stuck in the annulment cycle and can see no easy end, and be prepared for some work with some solid guidance and a definite light at the end of the tunnel.