Court order declaring bigamous marriage null and void still necessary

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Dear PAO,
My husband was previously married when I married him 13 years ago. He said that he was already separated for five years with his previous wife before he met me. Our marriage was also not successful because he was a womanizer. Lately, I found out that the first wife filed a case to have their marriage with my husband declared as null and void. I just want to ask if I can also have our marriage annulled. What ground could I use for my annulment? What happens to the petition which I will file in case the petition filed by the first wife is dismissed?
Ms. Jazz

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Dear Ms. Jazz,
You may also file a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage. A bigamous marriage or marriage contracted by parties who both or either one of them has an existing previous marriage is null and void under Article 35 of the Family Code, to wit:

“The following marriages shall be void from the beginning:

Xxx
(4) Those bigamous or polygamous marriages not failing under Article 41;

xxx”

In relation thereto, Article 41 of the Family Code provides that a subsequent marriage is valid despite existence of previous marriage if the spouse of one or both of the parties to such subsequent marriage has been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead. The spouse present, in this case, must institute a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death of the absentee for the purpose of contracting the subsequent marriage without prejudice to the effect of the reappearance of the absent spouse.

An order from the court declaring a bigamous marriage as null and void is still necessary. Parties to a marriage should not be allowed to assume that their marriage is void even if such be the fact but must first secure a judicial declaration of the nullity of their marriage before they can be allowed to marry again (Domingo v. CA, G.R. No. 104818, 17 September 1993).

On the other hand, the filing of a petition for the declaration of your marriage as null and void is separate and distinct from the petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage of your husband with his previous wife. Thus, even if the petition filed by the first wife is dismissed, your marriage may still be declared as null and void based on the merits of the case.

Please be reminded that the above legal opinion is solely based on our appreciation of the problem that you have stated. The opinion may vary when other facts are stated.

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