Ramirez vs Gmur (42 Phil 855)

Ramirez vs Gmur
42 Phil 855 [GR No. L-11796 August 5, 1918]

Facts: Samuel Bischoff Werthmuller, native of the Republic of Switzerland, but for many years a resident of the Philippine Islands, died in the city of Iloilo on June 29, 1913, leaving a valuable estate of which he disposed by will. A few days after his demise the will was offered for probate in the Court of First Instance of Iloilo and, upon publication of notice, was duly allowed and established by the court. His widow, Doña Ana M. Ramirez, was named as executrix in the will, and to her accordingly letters testamentary were issued. By the will everything was given to the widow, with the exception of a piece of real property located in the City of Thun, Switzerland, which was devised to the testator’s brothers and sisters. As appears from the original baptismal entry of Leona Castro made in the church record of Bacolod, she was born in that pueblo on April 11, 1875, her mother being Felisa Castro, and father “unknown.” Upon the margin of this record there is written in Spanish an additional annotation of the following tenor: “According to a public document (escritura) which was exhibited, she was recognized by Samuel Bischoff on June 22, 1877.” As the years passed Leona Castro was taken into the family of Samuel Bischoff and brought up by him and his wife a a member of the family; and it is sufficiently shown by the evidence adduced in this case that Samuel Bischoff tacitly recognized Leona a his daughter and treated her as such. In the year 1895 Leona Castro was married to Frederick von Kauffman, a British subject, born in Hong Kong, who had come to live in the city of Iloilo. Three children were born of this marriage, namely, Elena, Federico, and Ernesto, the youngest having been born on November 10, 1898. In the month of April 1899, Leona Castro was taken by her husband from Iloilo to the City of Thun, Switzerland, for the purpose of recuperating her health. She was there placed in a sanitarium, and on August 20th the husband departed for the Philippine Islands, where he arrived on October 10, 1899. Leona Castro continued to remain in Switzerland, and a few years later informed her husband, whom she had not seen again, that she desired to remain free and would not resume life in common with him. As a consequence, in the year 1904, Mr. Kauffman went to the City of Paris, France, for the purpose of obtaining a divorce from his wife under the French laws; and there is submitted in evidence in this case a certified copy of an extract from the minutes of the Court of First Instance of the Department of the Seine, from which it appears that a divorce was there decreed on January 5, 1905, in favor of Mr. Kauffman and against his wife, Leona, in default. Though the record recites that Leona was then in fact residing at No. 6, Rue Donizetti, Paris, there is no evidence that she had acquired a permanent domicile in that city.

Issue: Whether or not the the the divorce obtained by Mr. Kauffman is valid.

Held: No. It is established by the great weight of authority that the court of a country in which neither of the spouses is domiciled and to which one or both of them may resort merely for the purpose of obtaining a divorce has no jurisdiction to determine their matrimonial status; and a divorce granted by such a court is not entitled to recognition elsewhere. The voluntary appearance of the defendant before such a tribunal does not invest the court with jurisdiction.

It follows that, to give a court jurisdiction on the ground of the plaintiff’s residence in the State or country of the judicial forum, his residence must be bona fide. If a spouse leaves the family domicile and goes to another State for the sole purpose of obtaining a divorce, and with no intention of remaining, his residence there is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the courts of that State. This is especially true where the cause of divorce is one not recognized by the laws of the State of his own domicile.

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