I was married in 2011. I really thought my husband and I will be together until our hair turn grey, but I was shocked to know that he has a first wife who lives in the same city as ours. I was deeply devastated that I took off with our children with only the clothes on our back. I just want to know if there is any way I can invalidate our marriage. I do not want my children to grow up in a marriage that is a lie. I hope you can guide me as to how I can go about my predicament. A friend told me that I am automatically considered “single” since our marriage does not count, but I am not sure whether I will believe this. Thank you and more power.
Under our Civil laws, a person who is already married may not legally contract a second or subsequent marriage without securing a declaration of nullity of marriage or annulment of his or her first marriage from the proper court. In case his or her spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and he or she has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead, a declaration of presumptive death of the absentee spouse must first be obtained from the court. In case of disappearance where there is danger of death under the circumstances set forth in the provisions of Article 391 of the Civil Code, an absence of only two years shall be sufficient (Article 41, Family Code of the Philippines). This is because of the very nature of a contract of marriage – it is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman that is entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. (Article 1, id)
Thus in the situation that you have presented before us, we submit that your husband cannot validly enter into another marriage if his spouse is still alive and he has not obtained the proper declaration from the court. Such subsequent marriage, in this case – your marriage, is considered void from the beginning as it is a bigamous marriage. (Article 35 (4), id)
However, your civil status will not automatically be considered as that of “single.” Contrary to what your friend has told you, you must still file a petition for declaration of nullity of your marriage before the Regional Trial Court, sitting as a Family Court, of the place where you reside. Please be informed that the action for the declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage does not prescribe. (Article 39, id)
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com