PR 03120.290 Philippines

A. PR 82-001 John M~, Wage Earner, ~ Elena M~ Surviving Divorced Wife

DATE: November, 1982


Under the laws of the Philippines in effect in 1933, a marriage between a male sixteen years or older and a female fourteen years or older, was valid. Parental consent was necessary if the male was less than twenty and the female less than eighteen, respectively. However, lack of parental consent does not invalidate the marriage.


Your memorandum asked for an opinion as to whether underage marriages in the Philippines are valid, void or voidable.

The facts as presented to us, indicate that a ceremonial marriage was performed by a United States Army chaplain on July 14, 1933, in the Philippines. The bride, Elena M~, now claiming social security benefits as a surviving divorced spouse, alleged, at the time, that she was 18 years 2 months of age. She gave her date of birth as May 1915. Her date of birth has been established as September 16, 1915; therefore, she was only 17 years 10 months of age when married. The husband, John M~, obtained a divorce in Japan on February 18, 1959. He died September 21, 1971. The claimant either does not know or does not acknowledge that there was a divorce.

The Library of Congress has provided us with a translation of the pertinent provisions of the law of the Philippines.

The basic law governing marriage in the Philippines on July 14, 1933, was the Marriage Law, Act. No. 3613 of December 4, 1929, which went into effect on June 4, 1930. Under the provisions of this Act, the essential requirements of a valid marriage were capacity to marry, consent, and formalities in the celebration. Under capacity to marry, the age of consent for marriage is set out in Section 2 which provides:

"Any male of the age of sixteen years or upwards, and any female of the age of fourteen years or upwards, not included in any of the exceptions mentioned in sections twenty-eight and twenty-nine of this Act, may contract marriage. [Sections twenty-eight and twenty-nine cover incestuous marriages and illegal marriages respectively.]"

APR-22-1999 11:51 SSA-MOS RSI-SSI CHI

However, section 9, provides:

"In case the contracting parties or either of them, being single, are less than twenty years of age as regards the male and less than eighteen years as regards the female, they shall in addition to the requirements of the preceding sections, exhibit to the municipal secretary or to the clerk of the Municipal Court of the City of Manila as the case may be, the consent to their marriage of their father, mother, or guardian, or person having legal charge of them, in the order mentioned."

"However, if the male and the female are sixteen and fourteen years, respectively but below twenty and eighteen years respectively, the marriage even without parental consent is valid but the contracting parties are liable for violation of the marriage law." (Gamboa, An Introduction to Philippine Law III (4th ed. 1939)).

Thus, the marriage of Elena and John M~ on July 14, 1933 appears to have been valid in the Philippines at the time it was contracted, but Elena was in violation of the marriage laws by marrying at less than 18 years of age and without the consent of her parents. The effect of such violation is unclear. However, it does not appear to invalidate the marriage.

You also ask whether Elena meets the requirements for divorced widow (sic, surviving divorced wife's) benefits. The term "surviving divorce wife" is defined in section 216(d)[2) of the Social Security Act (the Act).

The requirements for surviving divorced widows benefits are found in 20 C.F.R. 404.336.

This office does not adjudicate claims. However, the claimant herein appears to meet the requirements for surviving divorced wife's benefits. She was invalidly married to the insured wage earner under the laws of the Philippines in effect at the time of the marriage. The marriage lasted at least 10 years - from July ]4, 1933 to February 18, 1959. She is 65 years old; her date of birth being established by SSA as September 16, 1915. There is no evidence in file of her being entitled to an old-age benefit which is equal to or larger than the insured individual's primary insurance amount. Additionally, there is no evidence that she is married.

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PR 03120.290 - Philippines - 04/26/2002
Batch run: 11/29/2012