Marital spats alone can’t be basis for legal separation

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My husband and I were married in a civil ceremony. Even early on in our marriage, we did not get along well. We would always fight, mostly because of financial disputes. We both have work but our salary did not seem enough. We were renting a small room and I was the one paying the rent, water and electricity. Whenever he falls short of money, I give him allowance. Every time I ask him to share in our expenses, he would just ignore me and leave the house. We were like that for two years until I decided to leave him and stay with my sister. There was a time that he went to my sister’s rented apartment, and forced me to go back with him but I refused. Since then, we have not communicated with each other. I think he is now living with his relatives in the province. I just want to know how I can legalize our separation or even nullify our marriage. I hope you can help me.
Ms. M

Dear Ms. M,
Even though a man and a woman are unified in a contract of marriage, we cannot overlook the fact that they are still two distinct individuals with their own particular personalities, traits, characteristics and behaviors. Their differences often result in disagreements and misunderstandings. Marital conflict is not too uncommon for spouses to have. Unfortunately, this also results in de facto separation among spouses.

Some parties to the marriage desire to legalize their separation, like you, for instance. In order to obtain this, a petition for legal separation must be filed before the court. We would like to emphasize, though, that mere disagreements or marital conflicts will not automatically serve as basis for legal separation. You must establish the existence of any of the grounds mentioned under Article 55 of the Family Code, to wit: (1) Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child or a child of the petitioner; (2) Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation; (3) Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child or a child of the petitioner, to engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement; (4) Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned; (5) Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent; (6) Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent; (7) Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in the Philippines or abroad; (8) Sexual infidelity or perversion; (9) Attempt by the respondent against the life of the petitioner; or (10) Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.”

The same goes for the annulment of marriage. The petitioner must establish before the court the existence of any of the following grounds: (1) Either party was eighteen years of age or over but below twenty-one at the time of the celebration of the marriage and it was solemnized without the consent of the concerned parents, guardian or person having substitute parental authority, in that order, unless after attaining the age of twenty one, such party freely co-habited with the other and both lived together as husband and wife; (2) Either party was of unsound mind, unless such party after coming to reason, freely co-habited with the other as husband and wife; (3) Consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterward, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely co-habited with the other as husband and wife; (4) Consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely co-habited with the other as husband and wife; (5) Either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, and such incapacity continues and appears to be incurable; or (6) Either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious and appears to be incurable. (Article 45, Id.).

Insofar as seeking a declaration of absolute nullity of marriage, one of the most common grounds rested upon is psychological incapacity of either of the parties to the marriage. Nevertheless, it must be clearly established that such incapacity is (1) Grave or serious; (2) Deeply rooted in the history of the party concerned, even prior to the celebration of the marriage; and (3) It must be incurable or, even if curable, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved (Santos vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995, 240 SCRA 20).

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


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  1. Dear Chief Acosta,
    Saan po ba office ninyo?
    May ilalapit lang po kc akong kaso para maresolba.
    Wala po akong kakayanang magbayad ng private attorney.
    At yung Public Attorney’s office samin, diko ko makausap ng personal dahil busy daw lagi sabi ng staff.
    Sana po matulungan ninyo ako..
    Maraming salamat po.