• Declaring marriage void over psychological incapacity can’t always be granted

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My wife and I have been married since 2007. I married her because she then was carrying our child, who died upon delivery at about the 29th week of his life. The doctor said he died because he was malnourished and was unable to properly grow inside her womb. My wife kept her vices of drinking and smoking even during her pregnancy. I warned and stopped her many times from doing so but she kept ignoring me. At the same time, she did not heed the advice of her doctor. Upon our child’s death, my wife kept partying. She never did household chores.

    While we lived together under one roof, she just one day disappeared in 2015. I only learned that she, with the help of a friend, went abroad to work and stayed there for good. I decided to file a petition to have our marriage declared void because of my wife’s psychological incapacity. She was not able to undergo psychological examination because she was abroad. The psychologist had an assessment of my wife, who according to her, is narcissistic and anti-social. Are these circumstances sufficient to warrant the nullification of my marriage, even if my wife was not personally examined by the psychologist?
    Sincerely yours,
    Avril

    Dear Avril,
    In declaring a marriage void under Article 36 of the Family Code (psychological incapacity), it is important for the party asserting the psychological incapacity of the other to be able to establish the gravity of the incapacity, its juridical antecedent or its root cause, and its inherent incurability. More particularly, the wisdom in the case of Glenn Viñas vs. Mary Grace Parel-Viñas (G.R. No. 208790, January 21, 2015, penned by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes), which is similar to your situation, is instructive:

    “The lack of personal examination or assessment of the respondent by a psychologist or psychiatrist is not necessarily fatal in a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage. ‘If the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.’” [Emphasis supplied]

    In your case, the mere fact that your wife was not examined by the psychologist does not warrant an outright dismissal of your petition. You, however, should take note that the “totality of evidence” you will present in court should prove what the law requires in declaring a marriage void because of incapacity. In the same case, it was stressed:

    “Article 36 contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations. Mere “difficulty,” “refusal” or “neglect” in the performance of marital obligations or “ill will” on the part of the spouse is different from “incapacity” rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness.

    Indeed, irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity under Article 36, as the same may only be due to a person’s refusal or unwillingness to assume the essential obligations of marriage and not due to some psychological illness that is contemplated by said rule.” [Emphasis supplied]
    It should be noted that in the same case, the court observed:

    “It is worth noting that Glenn and Mary Grace lived with each other for more or less seven years from 1999 to 2006. The foregoing established fact shows that living together as spouses under one roof is not an impossibility. Mary Grace’s departure from their home in 2006 indicates either a refusal or mere difficulty, but not absolute inability to comply with her obligation to live with her husband.” [Emphasis supplied]
    Clearly, the fact that you have lived with your wife from the year 2007 until 2015 may be construed by the court as sign that what she has is mere difficulty, not “inability,” as contemplated by law, to perform the essential marital obligations she has with you. You must therefore prove through a more convincing evidence your allegations, more particularly so, because she was not a participant to the psychological examination made in your case, and that there are other circumstances in your situation that may lead the court to conclude against your petition.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    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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