• Faith in solemnizing officer enough to make marriage valid

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My sister got married in 2010. She was 26 years old then while her husband was already 31 years old. She fell very much in love with him at the time so she said yes to the proposal even if they had only been dating for three months. Unfortunately, their marriage did not work and they have been separated since 2013.

    My sister is contemplating on seeking nullity of their marriage. She claimed that their marriage was celebrated by a pastor in a small Christian ceremony, but neither of them belonged to that church. She said a friend of hers told her that their marriage is invalid. Is this correct? Can she really have her marriage nullified? Your advice will be highly appreciated.

    Dear Adam,
    In order for a contract of marriage to be considered valid, the following essential requisites must be present: (1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female; and (2) Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer. In addition, the following formal requisites must also be present: (1) Authority of the solemnizing officer; (2) A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and, (3) A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration 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).

    Absent any of the above-mentioned essential or formal requisites will render the marriage void ab initio, except as stated in Article 35 (2) (Article 4, Ibid.). If we look closely, Article 35 (2) of the Family Code states that marriages that are solemnized by any person not legally authorized to perform marriages are considered void from the beginning unless such marriages were contracted with either or both parties believing in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to do so.

    In your letter, you mentioned that the marriage ceremony of your sister and her husband was celebrated by a Christian pastor. You said neither she nor her husband belongs to the church or congregation of the pastor. With this in mind, it may be said that the solemnizing officer has no authority to solemnize their marriage as Article 7 (2) of the Family Code expressly states that while priest, rabbi, imam or minister of any church or religious sect are allowed to solemnize marriages, such officer must be “duly authorized by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect.” (emphasis supplied)

    Since their marriage was solemnized by an officer who is bereft of authority, it may also be said that their marriage is void from the very beginning and a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage will be in order. If she or her husband, or both of them, however, believed in good faith that the solemnizing officer had the legal authority to solemnize their marriage, then the marriage will be considered valid and binding in consonance with the provisions of Article 35 (2) of the Family Code.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net


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