Are marriages between cousins invalid for being incestuous? I have been going out with someone for more than a year now and, to be honest, I am already considering settling down. But I just learned that we are cousins. Now, I do not know how to go about our situation since I really value her and, if law permits, I would really love to marry her. Please advise.
Under our law, only the following marriages are considered incestuous and void from the beginning: “(1) Between ascendants and descendants of any degree; and (2) Between brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half blood” (Article 37, Family Code of the Philippines). It makes no difference whether the relationship between the parties concerned is legitimate or illegitimate as the marriage remains invalid from the very beginning if it falls under any of the mentioned marriages. (Ibid.)
Given that marriages between cousins do not fall within the aforementioned category, it cannot be concluded that such kind of marriage is invalid for being incestuous.
However, it bears stressing that such marriage may be considered void from the beginning for reasons of public policy if the collateral blood relation between the parties extend within the fourth civil degree, which essentially encompasses one’s relationship with a first cousin, aunt/uncle, nephew/niece, and sibling of a grandparent by consanguinity. This is in consonance with Article 38 of the Family Code which provides: “The following marriages shall be void from the beginning for reasons of public policy: (1) Between collateral blood relatives whether legitimate or illegitimate, up to the fourth civil degree; x x x”
Appropriately, it would be best to determine first whether your current special someone is related to you by affinity or by consanguinity. We believe that if she is related to you by affinity (non-blood related), then there is no legal hindrance for you to proceed with the marriage. However, if she is related to you by consanguinity, you need to determine your civil degree of relationship with her.
To be specific, if she is your relative by consanguinity on the 5th civil degree or farther, you can lawfully settle down with her through the contract of marriage as there is no impediment as to your blood relation. But if she is your first cousin, then we regret to inform you that you cannot lawfully marry her as such marriage is void for reasons of public policy pursuant to Article 38 of the Family Code.
As explained by Dean Melencio S. Sta. Maria, Jr. in his book, “Persons and Family Relations Law” (p. 220, fourth edition, 2004), “x x x Marriage between collateral relatives up to the fourth civil degree may disturb the policy of the state as it may likely result though not of the same gravity, in the dangers and confusion attendant in incestuous marriages under Article 37. x x x”
Dean Ernesto L. Pineda likewise elucidated in his book, The Family Code of the Philippines Annotated, 2011 Edition (pp. 98-99, citing 35 Am. Jur., pp. 256-266), “x x x The reason for the prohibition as elsewhere already mentioned is that as established by scientific researches and by experience marriages between first cousins or other close blood relatives usually result in degenerate children with organic defects like weak or retarded minds, deafness or deaf mutism, nearsighted etcetera, which births, if occurring to a greater extent, would weaken the race.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org