Question: Hi! I need some advice about my marriage and family life. I am a Filipino living in Singapore for a long, long time. In 1998, I wed a Filipina through civil rites, but our union did not last. By 1999, she had left Singapore for the Philippines with our newborn son. I did all I could to get in touch with her but my efforts were all in vain.
For a while, I believed that my wife and son would come back to me, but it has been more than ten years since they left. I have recently realized that life must go on. I met a lovely woman here in Singapore and she has made me enthusiastic about building a new life and family with her.
However, I have a few doubts regarding legalities surrounding my case. First, is it possible for me to remarry in Singapore with no legal documents? Second, will I get in trouble with any Philippine law if I do get married again?
Answer: Given that you are a Filipino citizen, you are bound by the laws that govern your motherland. This means you cannot marry another woman, unless your first marriage in Singapore is declared null and void.
You have two legal options for this. First, file for Annulment on the ground of Psychological incapacity (Article 36, Family Code), with your spouse being unable to perform her marital obligations.
Second, file a petition for Declaration of Presumptive Death of your wife. According to your narrative, you have not heard from or about her since 1999 when she left Singapore for the Philippines with your son.
Philippine law states that if a spouse has been absent for four consecutive years, he or she may be legally presumed to be dead. This period is reduced to two consecutive years if the present spouse has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse could be dead or was in danger of death at the time of his or her disappearance
Specifically, cases where the required years of absence for the issuance of a Declaration of Presumptive Death is reduced to two years include: 1) spouse declared missing after boarding a sea vessel or airplane; 2) missing spouse is a member of the Armed Forces and has gone to war; and 3) any circumstance that raises the possibility of the missing person being dead or in the danger of death (Article 41, amended Family Code.)
If any of these conditions is satisfied, the present spouse may contract another marriage, but first, he or she must obtain a judicial order for the Declaration of Presumptive Death of the missing spouse.
Therefore, the only way for you to marry your current girlfriend without legal impediments is by securing either an annulment of your first marriage or a Declaration of Presumptive Death of your first wife.
If, after declaring a presumptive death declaration, your first wife suddenly appears, your second marriage will be automatically terminated. You cannot be charged with bigamy, however.
Hope this clears things up for you, but it is best that you consult a Filipino lawyer before making any further plans.