SC relaxes rules on psychological incapacity as ground to annul marriages
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has taken a liberal stand in allowing the annulment of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity as it reversed itself and nullified the marriage of two individuals saying a strict implementation of the rules would allow diagnosed sociopaths, schizophrenics, narcissists and the like to stay married.
In a 25-page decision, the high court’s Special First Division through Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin reversed its September 2011 ruling “after taking a second hard look” at the facts of the case.
In the September 2011 ruling, the high court upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision in upholding the marriage of the two private individuals.
The high court said the lower court failed to make factual findings, which can serve as legal bases for concluding that one of parties is suffering from psychological incapacity.
But in its recent ruling, the high court said Article 36 of the Family Code should not be so strictly and too literally be applied.
Article 36 provides that “a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the 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.”
The high court, in 1997 has set specific guidelines before a marriage can be nullified on the ground of psychological incapacity. Some of the guidelines include: the root cause of the psychological incapacity must be medically or clinically identified, alleged in the complaint, sufficiently proven by experts, must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage, clinically or medically incurable, among others.
“The foregoing guidelines have turned out to be rigid, such that their application to every instance practically condemned the petitions for declaration of nullity to the fate of certain rejection,” the high court said in its recent ruling.
“Instead, every court should approach the issue of nullity “not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations, but according to its own facts” in recognition of the verity that no case would be on ‘all fours’ with the next one in the field of psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage; hence, every “trial judge must take pains in examining the factual,” the high court said.
In this case, the high court granted the motion for reconsideration filed by the husband against the wife who loves to play mahjong and frequents the beauty parlor, displaying narcissistic behavior.
Aside from medical experts, the high court also gave credence to the testimony of Fr. Gerard Healy S.J., a canon law expert and a consultant of the Family Code Revision Committee who testified that the wife’s duties to her husband and children had become secondary to her beauty, being a former model, her going-out, going to beauty parlor and mahjong.
The high court added that taking her children with her while playing mahjong is exposing them to a culture of gambling, which was “a very grave and serious act of subordinating their needs for parenting to the gratification of her own personal and escapist desires.”
In relaxing the rules in determining psychological incapacity for nullification of marriages, the high court said they are “not demolishing the foundation of families but is actually protecting the sanctity of marriage, because it refuses to allow a person afflicted with a psychological disorder, who cannot comply with or assume the essential marital obligations from remaining in that sacred bond.”
The high court added that the courts may be flooded by petitions for nullity of marriage but there is no reason to be worried because of ample safeguards such as intervention of the government.
“The court should rather be alarmed by the rising number of cases involving marital abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and incestuous rape,” the high court added.
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