Marriage at 16 voidable if knot was tied in or after August 1988

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My parents got married in the 1980s somewhere in La Union and it was witnessed by their parents and immediate family members only. At the time, my father was only 16 years old while my mother was 19 years old. Unfortunately, they separated in 1994. My mother wants to know if she can have their marriage nullified because of my father’s minor age at the time they were married. I hope you will respond soon. Thank you and more power.

Dear Genivive,
One of the indispensable requisites to a valid marriage is the legal capacity of both the contracting parties to enter into a contract of marriage. Under the Family Code of the Philippines (FCP), any male or female of the age of eighteen (18) years or upward and who is not under any of the impediments mentioned in Articles 37 and 38 thereof, may contract marriage. (Article 5, FCP). If a marriage was contracted by any party who is below eighteen years of age, even with the consent of his or her parents or guardians, the same shall be regarded as void from the beginning (Article 35 (1), FCP).

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the Family Code only took effect on August 31, 1988. Consequently, the provisions thereof shall only apply to marriages entered into on August 31, 1988 and thereafter, and shall only have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws (Article 256, FCP).

With that being said, your mother may only file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the basis of Article 35 (1) of the Family Code if her marriage with your father was celebrated on August 31, 1988 and thereafter.

On the other hand, if their marriage was celebrated prior to August 31, 1988, a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage may not prosper, unless it rests on some other lawful grounds. It is specifically provided for under Article 54 of the Civil Code of the Philippines that, “Any male of the age of sixteen years or upward, and any female of the age of fourteen years or upward, not under any of the impediments mentioned in Articles 80 to 84, may contract marriage.” Given that your father was already 16 years old at the time of the celebration of their marriage, he already has the legal capacity to enter into such contract.

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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