Alice Reyes Van Dorn vs. Hon. Manuel V. Romillo, Jr
No. L-68470, October 8, 1985.*
Petitioner, Alicia, is a citizen of the Philippines while private respondent is a citizen of the United States; that they were married in Hongkong in 1972; that, after the marriage, they established their residence in the Philippines; that they begot two children; that the parties were divorced in Nevada, United States, in 1982; and that petitioner has re-married also in Nevada, this time to Theodore Van Dorn.
In 1983, private respondent filed suit against, stating that petitioner’s business in Manila, is conjugal property of the parties, and asking that petitioner be 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”.
The respondent avers that the Divorce Decree issued by the Nevada Court cannot prevail over the prohibitive laws of the Philippines and its declared national policy; that the acts and declaration of a foreign Court cannot, especially if the same is contrary to public policy, divest Philippine Courts of jurisdiction to entertain matters within its jurisdiction.
(1) Whether or not the foreign divorce between the petitioner and private respondent in Nevada is binding in the Philippines
(2) Whether or not an American granted absolute divorce in his country with his Filipina wife can assert his rights over property allegedly held in the Philippines as conjugal property by him and his former wife
(1) YES. 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. It is true 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 policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law.
(2) No. 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 latter should not continue to be one of her heirs with possible rights to conjugal property. She should not be discriminated against in her own country if the ends of justice are to be served.