Guidelines for the interpretation and application of Psychological Incapacity

n Molina, the  Court laid down the Guidelines for the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines

Of course, the law recognizes that not all marriages are made in heaven. Imperfect humans more often than not create imperfect unions.  Thus,  when the imperfection is psychological in nature and renders a person incapacitated  to  comply  with  the  essential  marital  obligations,  the   State  provides  refuge  to  the  aggrieved  spouse  under  Article  36  of   the  Family  Code  which reads:

ART. 36. A marriage contracted by a party who, at the time of celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.

In Molina, the  Court laid down the Guidelines for the interpretation and application of Article 36, thus:

(1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff.  Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.  x  x  x.

(2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint,    (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision.  Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological — not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical.  The evidence must convince the court that the parties, or one of them, were mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof.  Although no example of such incapacity need be given here so as not to limit the application of the provision under the principle of ejusdem generis, nevertheless such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained.  Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.  The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.”  The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.  Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex.  Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job.  Hence, a pediatrician may be effective in diagnosing illnesses of children and prescribing medicine to cure them but may not be psychologically capacitated to procreate, bear and raise his/her own children as an essential obligation of marriage.

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage.  Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes.  The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will.  In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.

(6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children.  Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state.  No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition.  The Solicitor General, along with the prosecuting attorney, shall submit to the court such certification within fifteen (15) days from the date the case is deemed submitted for resolution of the court.  The Solicitor General shall discharge the equivalent function of the defensor vinculi contemplated under Canon 1095.

The foregoing Guidelines incorporate the basic requirements mandated by the Court in Santos, to reiterate: psychological incapacity must be characterized by (a) gravity; (b) juridical antecedence; and            (c) incurability.

There is no evidence that Justo’s “defects” were present at the inception of the marriage. His “defects” surfaced only in the latter years when these events took place; their two children died; he lost in the election; he failed in his business ventures and law practice; and felt the disdain of his wife and her family.  Surely, these circumstances explain why Rosa filed the present case only after almost 30 years of their marriage.

Equally important is that records fail to indicate that Justo’s “defects” are incurable or grave.

The following catena of cases provides an adequate basis why the marriage between Justo and Rosa should not be annulled.

In Dedel v. Court of Appeals which involved a promiscuous wife who left her family to live with one of her many paramours, this Court ruled that the acts of sexual infidelity and abandonment do not constitute psychological incapacity absent a showing of the presence of such promiscuity at the inception of the marriage, thus:

x  x  x. In this case, respondent’s sexual infidelity can hardly qualify as being mentally or   physically ill to such an extent that she could not have known the obligations she was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given a valid assumption thereof. It appears that respondent’s promiscuity did not exist prior to or at the inception of the marriage. What is, in fact, disclosed by the records is a blissful marital union at its celebration, later affirmed in church rites, and which produced four children.

Respondent’s sexual infidelity or perversion and abandonment do not by themselves constitute psychological incapacity within the contemplation of the Family Code. Neither could her emotional immaturity and irresponsibility be equated with psychological incapacity. It must be shown that these acts are manifestations of a disordered personality which make respondent completely unable to discharge the essential obligations of the marital state, not merely due to her youth, immaturity, or sexual promiscuity.

In Carating-Siayngco  v. Siayngco, the wife’s inability to conceive led her husband to other women so he could fulfill his ardent wish to have a child of his own flesh and blood.  This Court ruled that this is not a manifestation of psychological incapacity in the contemplation of the Family Code.   In Choa v. Choa, this Court declared that a mere showing of irreconcilable differences and conflicting personalities does not constitute psychological incapacity.   And, again, in Iyoy, a Filipina left her husband, married an American and had a family by him, which she flaunted to her former husband. This Court ruled that these acts, while embarrassing and hurting to the latter, did not satisfactorily establish a serious or grave psychological or mental defect of an incurable nature present at the time of marriage; and that irreconcilable differences, conflicting personalities, emotional immaturity, and irresponsibility, physical abuse, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity or perversion, and abandonment per se do not warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36.

What is clear in this case is a husband who has gone astray from the path of marriage because of a conflicting relationship with his wife and her family and repeated life’s setbacks. While these do not justify his sins, they are not sufficient to establish that he is psychologically incapacitated.

It is worthy to emphasize that Article 36 contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and assume the basic marital obligations, not a mere refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less, ill will, on the part of the errant spouse.  As this Court repeatedly declares, Article 36 of the Family Code  is not to be confused with a divorce law that cuts the marital bond at the time the causes thereof manifest themselves.      It refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. These marital obligations are those provided under Articles 68 to 71, 220, 221 and 225 of the Family Code.

Neither should Article 36 be equated with legal separation, in which the grounds need not be rooted in psychological incapacity but on physical violence, moral pressure, moral corruption, civil interdiction, drug addiction, sexual infidelity, and abandonment, and the like. At best the evidence presented by petitioner refers only to grounds for legal separation, not for declaring a marriage void.

In sum, this Court finds no cogent reason to reverse the ruling of the Court of Appeals. While this Court commiserates with Rosa’s plight, however, it has no choice but to apply the law. Dura lex sed lex.


About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Family Code, Legal Maxim and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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