• Claim to pieces of property after dissolution of marriage

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Ann and I got married in 2003. Our relationship turned sour and we decided to separate in 2005. My marriage with Ann was eventually dissolved after I filed a petition in court for the declaration of nullity of our marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity. I have not declared any property during the proceedings because, as far as I am concerned, we have not acquired any. After five months from the date of the decision, however, someone informed me that there are pieces of property titled in the name of my wife that she acquired during our marriage. Do I have a share in these assets?
    Aaron

    Dear Aaron,
    Since your marriage is already declared void, the law applicable to the pieces of property acquired by the spouses is found under Article 147 of the Family Code of the Philippines:

    “When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

    In the absence of proof to the contrary, pieces of property acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.

    Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation.

    When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of the common children or their descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of descendants, such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon termination of the cohabitation”

    The rule on co-ownership shall be applied to the pieces of property that both spouses acquired during the marriage. In a similar case entitled Salas, Jr. vs. Aguila (G.R. No. 202370, September 23, 2013), the Supreme Court through Associate Justice Antonio Carpio ruled:

    “Under this property regime, property acquired during the marriage is prima facie presumed to have been obtained through the couple’s joint efforts and governed by the rules on co-ownership. In the present case, Salas did not rebut this presumption. In a similar case where the ground for nullity of marriage was also psychological incapacity, we held that the properties acquired during the union of the parties, as found by both the RTC [Regional Trial Court] and the CA [Court of Appeals], would be governed by co-ownership. Accordingly, the partition of the Discovered Properties as ordered by the RTC and the CA should be sustained, but on the basis of co-ownership and not on the regime of conjugal partnership of gains.”

    Applying the above-quoted decision to your case, you are a co-owner with respect to the pieces of property that you discovered after the dissolution of your marriage because you are deemed to have contributed in its acquisition. These assets, which were acquired during the existence of the marriage, can be partitioned between the spouses, unless your wife rebuts the presumption and is able to prove that the pieces of property are actually exclusively hers.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on this matter, but we reiterate that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when facts are changed or further elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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