Van Dorn v. Hon. Romillo, Jr.

G.R. No. L-68470, 8 October 1985

FACTS:

Alice Reyes Van Dorn (petitioner) is a citizen of the Philippines while Richard Upton (private respondent) is a citizen of the United States. They were married in Hongkong in 1972 and after the marriage; they established their residence in the Philippines. They begot two children born on April 4, 1973 and December 18, 1975, respectively. The parties were divorced in Nevada, United States in 1982 and petitioner has re-married also in Nevada, this time to Theodore Van Dorn.

Dated June 8, 1983, private respondent filed suit against petitioner stating that petitioner’s business in Ermita, Manila, (the Galleon Shop, for short), is conjugal property of the parties. Respondent asked petitioner is ordered to render an accounting of that business, and that private respondent be declared with right to manage the conjugal property. Petitioner moved to dismiss the case on the ground that the cause of action is barred by previous judgment in the divorce proceedings before the Nevada Court wherein respondent had acknowledged that he and petitioner had “no community property” as of June 11, 1982. The Court denied the Motion to Dismiss in the mentioned case on the ground that the property involved is located in the Philippines so that the Divorce Decree has no bearing in the case.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the foreign divorce between the petitioner and private respondent in Nevada is binding in the Philippines where petitioner is a Filipino citizen.

RULING:

There can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. Pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue in the case below as petitioner’s husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country’s Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property.

The Court held that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our concept of public police and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage.

* Case digest by Paula Bianca B. Eguia, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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