Marital infidelity not ground to have marriage annulled or voided

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My sister and her husband are having problems in their relationship. My brother-in-law had a child with another woman, while they were married. I want to know if this infidelity could be used to declare their marriage void under the ground of psychological incapacity.
Sincerely yours,
Rina

Dear Rina,
Article 36 of the Family Code defines psychological incapacity as a ground for declaration of nullity of marriage. It is provided therein that “a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”

In the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Cesar Encelan (G.R. No. 170022, January 9, 2013), the Supreme Court, through former Associate Justice Arturo Brion, clearly held that “(i)n interpreting this provision, we have repeatedly stressed that psychological incapacity contemplates ‘downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations’; not merely the refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will, on the part of the errant spouse. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the juridical antecedence (i.e., the existence at the time of the celebration of marriage), gravity and incurability of the condition of the errant spouse.”

It was further discussed therein that “(i)n any event, sexual infidelity and abandonment of the conjugal dwelling, even if true, do not necessarily constitute psychological incapacity; these are simply grounds for legal separation.
To constitute psychological incapacity, it must be shown that the unfaithfulness and abandonment are manifestations of a disordered personality that completely prevented the erring spouse from discharging the essential marital obligations. No evidence on record exists to support Cesar’s allegation that Lolita’s infidelity and abandonment were manifestations of any psychological illness.”


It is clear from the foregoing that marital infidelity by itself will not amount to psychological incapacity, and could only be a ground for legal separation.

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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