Dubai: When your marriage doesn’t make it to ‘until death do we part’, reconsider getting a third opinion, Filipinos have been told.

Social Welfare Attache Isabel Sy Nillas said Filipino expatriates can now seek help from her office when their marriage is on the rocks or even couples planning to tie the knot.

Unlike in Western cultures, Filipino couples traditionally do not seek out marriage counsellors’ help in cases of marital conflicts. This is because their parents and godparents, even close friends, are on-hand to offer advice and help to resolve their conflicts.

But in the absence of this support system abroad, marital issues are left unresolved, severing the ties between husband and wife that could lead to separation. Divorce is illegal under Philippine law.

“We have systems in place to intervene and help. For the marriage counselling, we strive to settle conflicts by speaking independently with the wife, then with the husband, and after that, we speak to both of them to resolve the issue,” Nillas, who has worked as a government social worker for 36 years, told Gulf News. She assumed office at the Philippine embassy in March last year, representing Manila’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Nillas has since handled 38 marital conflict and family support cases. The majority of the cases were walk-ins, some were local referrals, and others were referred by her counterpart agencies in the Philippines.

“There are cases of families in the Philippines receiving insufficient financial support from their breadwinners here. We try to resolve this by talking directly with the person involved.”

For couples who are here, Nillas said: “We mediate between the husband and the wife and some cases get resolved. For those that don’t, we help the couple in making their agreement on child custody and support issues.”

Breaking up of families is one of the social costs of migration that Nillas’ office aims to address, among other things, such as helping distressed undocumented Filipinos, trafficking victims, and providing child welfare services.

Nillas handled 1,721 clients for the past year, 28 per cent of whom are cases of distressed Filipinos, while 72 per cent were non-distressed cases. Some 23 per cent of this number involved counselling maltreated and mistreated Filipinos.

“There is a huge need for counselling distressed Filipino workers and preparing them for the reintegration with their families and in the society.”