We don’t want to rain on your parade. Go ahead, get married and start your life together. But it would be good if you knew what you were getting into—at least, from a legal point of view. We know it runs contrary to our romantic notions of letting love take its course, but wouldn’t you want to navigate your life in legally chartered waters? It’s your choice. You could stop reading right here and just trust your instincts. Or you could read right on and find out the finer points of marriage in the Philippine legal setting.
“CAN VOTE, CAN MARRY”
At the age of 18, you can march down the aisle or go before a judge to be joined in matrimony. But when mom or dad says, “No way! No marriage!”, then that’s it. Parental consent is a must if you want to get married and you’re between the ages of 18 to 21. Of course you could wait, because once you’re past 21, even if the whole clan is against it (parents included), you’re legally entitled to tie the knot without their consent.
“WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS, AND WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE”
This wonderful statement sums up what is called absolute community. This was created by framers of the law who had never heard about Paul McCartney and his disastrous divorce. In any case, it’s an apt arrangement, considering there’s no divorce under Philippine law—once you say “I do”, it’s “Till death do us part.” So everything you own before and during the marriage is considered conjugal property.
However, there are exceptions, such as property acquired by either spouse during the marriage by gratuitous title, which means it was never paid for (either you inherited it or it was given to you). However, for the millionaires out there who are either pessimists or pragmatists, you have a choice not to follow this kind of property arrangement in your marriage, through what is called a marriage settlement of property regime, which both of you must agree upon before tying the knot. The settlement is better known by its Hollywood name: pre-nuptial agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, the default rule of absolute community applies.
“THE MAN DECIDES AROUND HERE”
No, this is not the middle ages—just one of its remnants that has managed to find its way into our Family Code. This refers to who gets the final say when it comes to the administration of conjugal property—as per rule of law, the husband’s decision prevails over that of the wife. But of course, an aggrieved wife has the recourse of going to court if she disagrees.
“TO LOVE AND TO HOLD…”
Our favorite part: proof that women had a say when they made the law on matrimony. What the bards and poets have been saying is embodied in this provision, which lists the matrimonial rights and obligations of the husband and wife to each other. There is no proper translation from its legal language; quoted here in full: “The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect, and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.” (Art. 68, Family Code.)
Need we say more?
Rachel is a lawyer engaged in private practice. At home, she and her husband practice “conjugal dictatorship,” meaning they both have the final say.
(First published in Good Housekeeping, May 2009; adapted for posting on Female Network; photo source: sxc.hu)