Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Giving the effect of res judicata to foreign judgment of divorce - G.R. No. 155635

"x x x.

To be sure, the Court has taken stock of the holding in Garcia v. Recio that a foreign divorce can be recognized here, provided the divorce decree is proven as a fact and as valid under the national law of the alien spouse.39 Be this as it may, the fact that Rebecca was clearly an American citizen when she secured the divorce and that divorce is recognized and allowed in any of the States of the Union,40 the presentation of a copy of foreign divorce decree duly authenticatedby the foreign court issuing said decree is, as here, sufficient.

It bears to stress that the existence of the divorce decree has not been denied, but in fact admitted by both parties. And neither did they impeach the jurisdiction of the divorce court nor challenge the validity of its proceedings on the ground of collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of fact or law, albeit both appeared to have the opportunity to do so. The same holds true with respect to the decree of partition of their conjugal property. As this Court explained in Roehr v. Rodriguez:

Before our courts can give the effect of res judicata to a foreign judgment [of divorce] x x x, it must be shown that the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to do so on grounds allowed under Rule 39, Section 50 of the Rules of Court (now Rule 39, Section 48, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure), to wit:

SEC. 50. Effect of foreign judgments.--The effect of a judgment of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to pronounce the judgment is as follows:

(a) In case of a judgment upon a specific thing, the judgment is conclusive upon the title to the thing;

(b) In case of a judgment against a person, the judgment is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest by a subsequent title; but the judgment may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.

It is essential that there should be an opportunity to challenge the foreign judgment, in order for the court in this jurisdiction to properly determine its efficacy. In this jurisdiction, our Rules of Court clearly provide that with respect to actions in personam, as distinguished from actions in rem, a foreign judgment |merely constitutes prima facie evidence of the justness of the claim of a party and, as such, is subject to proof to the contrary.41

As the records show, Rebecca, assisted by counsel, personally secured the foreign divorce while Vicente was duly represented by his counsel, a certain Dr. Alejandro Torrens, in said proceedings. As things stand, the foreign divorce decrees rendered and issued by the Dominican Republic court are valid and, consequently, bind both Rebecca and Vicente

x x x."