Couple must secure valid marriage license prior to matrimony

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Dear PAO,
My friend was dating a married man. She insisted that they get married but the guy consistently refused considering that he is still married to his wife. He promised her that he will work on his annulment. But because she was not satisfied with that promise, she got hold of a purported marriage contract and told him to sign it just to appease her. She assured him that it will just be between the two of them. After a year, their relationship turned sour and the guy eventually left him. She is now considering of filing a case for bigamy. Do you think the case will stand?
Anabelle

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Dear Anabelle,
In the situation that you have presented before us, we submit that a case for bigamy against the man who was dating your friend may not stand in court. As defined under the law, the crime of bigamy is committed when a person contracts a second or subsequent marriage before his or her former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before his or her absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings (Article 349, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).

There is no question that the man your friend was dating is married. There is likewise no indication that his marriage has been legally dissolved or that the court has declared the presumptive death of his wife. However, the subsistence of his marriage is not the only element to consider in making him liable for the crime of bigamy.

There are four elements to consider in order for the crime of bigamy to stand in court, to wit: (1) The offender is legally married; (2) Said marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code; (3) A second or subsequent marriage is contracted; and (4) Such second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for a valid marriage.

In the situation of your friend, the third and fourth elements are not evidently present. Thus, it cannot be gainsaid that a second or subsequent marriage existed between her and the man she was dating. While said man appeased your friend by signing the document presented by your friend, such act may not be considered as entering into a valid contract of marriage. It is worth emphasizing that, in order for a valid marriage to exist, the contracting parties, who must be a male and a female, must have the legal capacity to enter into such marriage, and that they freely give their consent before a solemnizing officer who has the authority to solemnize marriages. In addition, the parties must have secured a valid marriage license prior to their marriage, except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of Title I of the Family Code of the Philippines, and that a marriage ceremony must have taken place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer, personally declaring that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age (Articles 2 and 3, Family Code of the Philippines).

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.

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