Do I have grounds for a divorce?

Question:

Greetings from the Philippines!

I support your website and have been reading the posts and questions of other readers. I came to you because you answer the questions carefully and evaluate each scenario.

I have been a Christian all my life by religion but just recently surrendered my life to Christ.

My husband and I have lived apart and have been separated for over a decade. He was a womanizer, physically and verbally abusive. He got a woman pregnant in our first year of marriage. I forgave him each time and worked out our marriage even though he was not fulfilling his duties as a husband. He would deprive me of sex and say that he finds me fat, unattractive, and undisciplined. He offered to manage our finances and accused me of being an unsubmissive wife if I didn't do as he asked. He has, in the past, supported his womanizing ways with funds I would give him to sustain him when he was out of work. He would throw away the food I buy for him when he doesn't like it. I paid for his gym and clothes and gave him a weekly allowance. All throughout our marriage I was the only one providing financially for our needs.

My husband left our home in our third year of marriage when he tried to hurt me in front of my mother and then left our home permanently. After a few months, he attempted to reconcile with me. I entertained his attempt to reconcile, but I could see that there was no attempt to change his ways. He stopped pursuing me after I told him that I couldn't offer him anything at the moment as I was having a hard time healing and I was emotionally drained. He started having girlfriends and was not consistent in providing for our daughter. I cannot deny that I was bitter about how he was treating me and my daughter. I belittled my ex-husband in my thoughts to endure what he was doing.

Since we don't have divorce here in the Philippines, we decided to live apart. We considered each other as single people and no longer bonded. We both wanted to be divorced but could not settle it as there is no divorce in the Philippines, only Annulment, which costs more than $5,000. I was a minimum wage earner at that time and the Philippines is a very poor country. Only the elite can afford an annulment. My ex-husband is in and out of jobs, and he cannot afford to file for an annulment, either.

He was in and out of relationships. One of his girlfriends became my friend, and I nursed her back to sanity when my husband left her. I became friends with her secretly as my husband would bring my daughter to her. I wanted to make sure my daughter was in good hands. We attempted to coparent but he completely refused to provide for our daughter. He completely abandoned me and my daughter for nearly a decade and refused to help in raising our daughter. He would talk to me occasionally but would refuse to help out. There were times I begged him to help out, but he still wouldn't help me out with our daughter.

I moved on, and after several years of separation from my husband, I engaged in a new relationship. I called my husband to inform him that I was seeing someone else to avoid any complications, and he said he was okay with my new relationship. Recently, I surrendered my life to Christ, and I ended my relationship as it was adulterous.

I attempted to contact my husband to talk about our marriage. I discovered he is now a Muslim and has a new family. My family and I tried to reach out to him, but he would block us on every platform or communication channel. I don't know where he lives. I don't know his friends ( he was secretive about them). The last message he sent to my aunt was, "Just send me the annulment papers, and I'll sign it. Let's all move on as there is nothing to talk about." My husband refuses to file for an annulment as it would cost him money, and because he is now a Muslim, he is permitted to have a second wife.

The churches here in the Philippines have conflicting views about separation. I am not the only Filipina living apart from her husband for the same reasons. I have repented and been praying to God to clarify my situation. I have forgiven my husband, but I am afraid of him, and I no longer want to suffer what I suffered with him while we were still living together. My husband is unrepentant and no longer cares about my daughter and our marriage.

I want to be right with God. I have tried to reach out to pastors, but I am not being catered to as I don't have a permanent church yet, or they would straightforwardly tell me I cannot get a divorce and that there are no biblical grounds for divorce or annulment. Most Philippine churches take the permanence view.

I hope you can take the time to give me biblical advice. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

Do I have biblical grounds to file for divorce or annulment? Can I remarry?

Answer:

Until the laws change in your country, your question cannot be answered. Biblically, you have had grounds for divorce since your husband is an unrepentant fornicator (Matthew 19:9). However, you also have to abide by your country's laws (Romans 13:1-2), and it does not allow for a divorce. I've heard that the government is working toward changing those laws, but until the changes take place, you are stuck. You can file for legal separation on the grounds of abandonment and infidelity.

You have no obligation to keep the marriage going (I Corinthians 7:12-15). However, until you can officially end your marriage, you must live without a partner.

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