Civil Law

Alice Reyes Van Dorn vs Manuel Romillo, Jr.

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G.R. No. L-68470 – 139 SCRA 139 – Civil Law – Preliminary Title – Application of Laws – Foreign Laws – Nationality Principle – Divorce Obtained Abroad

Family Code – Divorce Decree Obtained Abroad

In 1972, Alice Reyes, a Filipina, and Richard Upton, an American, married in Hong Kong. However, in 1982, Upton obtained a divorce decree in Nevada, USA.

Later, Reyes married Theodore Van Dorn.

In 1983, Upton filed a civil case against Reyes in Pasay City. Upton was petitioning that he be granted management rights over a property in Manila (The Galleon). It was his contention that the divorce decree they obtained abroad do not apply to properties in the Philippines, hence, despite the divorce, Reyes’s property in the Philippines remained conjugal with Upton. Judge Manuel Romillo, Jr. agreed with Upton. The judge ruled that the divorce decree issued by the Nevada court, a foreign court, cannot prevail over the declared national policy of the Philippines which prohibits divorce.

ISSUE: Whether or not Judge Romillo, Jr. is correct.

HELD: No. Under 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 policy and morality (nationality principle). 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 is valid. Thus, pursuant to his national law, Upton is no longer the husband of Reyes. He would have no standing to sue as Reyes’ husband as he is not entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. 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 from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property.

Further, the SC declared, Alice Reyes van Dorn should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.

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