Bayot v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No.155635, 7 November 2008

FACTS:

On April 20, 1979, Vicente, a Filipino, and Rebecca, an American, were married in Muntinlupa. They had a child name Alix, born in November 27, 1982 in California.

In February 22, 1996, Rebecca initiated divorce proceedings in Dominican Republic, which resulted to judgment ordering the dissolution of the marriage and the distribution of conjugal properties

After obtaining a Department of Justice affirmation of her Filipino citizenship, she then filed a declaration of absolute nullity of marriage on the ground of Vicente’s alleged psychological incapacity, seeking for distribution of conjugal properties and support.

On June 8, 2001, Vicente filed a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds of lack of cause of action and that the petition is barred by the prior judgment of divorce.

RTC denied Vicente’s motion to dismiss but CA reversed lower court’s decision. According to the CA, RTC ought to have granted Vicente’s motion to dismiss, since the marriage between the spouses is already dissolved when the divorce decree was granted since Rebecca was an American citizen when she applied for the decree.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the divorce decree obtained by Rebecca in Dominican Republic is valid.

RULING:

Yes, the divorce is valid.

Article 26 (2) of the Civil Code states that: “Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall likewise have the capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”

Rebecca at that time she applied and obtained her divorce was an American citizen and remains to be one, being born to American parents in Guam, an American territory which follows the principle of jus soli granting American citizenship to those who are born there. She was, and still may be, a holder of American passport. She had consistently professed, asserted and represented herself as an American citizen, as shown in her marriage certificate, in Alix’s birth certificate, when she secured divorce in Dominican Republic.

Being an American citizen, Rebecca was bound by the national laws of the United States of America, a country which allows divorce. The fact that Rebecca may have been duly recognized as a Filipino citizen by affirmation of the DOJ Secretary does not invalidate the foreign divorce secured by Rebecca as an American citizen in 1996. In determining whether or not a divorce is secured abroad would come within the jurisdiction of the country’s policy against absolute divorce, the reckoning point is the citizenship of the parties at the time a valid divorce is obtained.

* Case digest by Kristine Camille B. Gahuman , LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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