Marriage voidable when either party is forced into it

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My brother was forced to marry his girlfriend when he got her pregnant because the father of his girlfriend physically threatened him and even sent him death threats. Now that the father of his girlfriend passed away, my brother is wondering if he can have his marriage annulled considering that he only agreed to marry the girl because of the threats of his father-in-law against him. I hope you can advise us on what we can do about this. Thank you!
Edmayne

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Dear Edmayne,
One of the essential requirements of a valid marriage is the consent of the parties freely given during their marriage (Article 2, Family Code of the Philippines). In situations when consent in marriage was obtained through force, intimidation or undue influence, the marriage is still considered valid until a proper action for its annulment on such ground is filed, proven and granted by the courts.

Based on your narration, your brother alleges that his consent to marry his girlfriend was caused by the threats made by his father-in-law. If this is true, then there is a defect in the essential requisites in the marriage of your brother since his consent was not freely given. This therefore makes his marriage voidable or valid until annulled.

Article 45 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides for the grounds for the annulment of a marriage. This law is relevant to the situation of your brother since it provides that:

“Art. 45. A marriage may be annulled for any of the following causes, existing at the time of the marriage:

xxx

(4) That the consent of either party was obtained by force, intimidation or undue influence, unless the same having disappeared or ceased, such party thereafter freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife;

xxx”

Thus, if indeed your brother was merely forced, coerced or threatened to obtain his consent to the marriage, then he may and he should bring the appropriate petition for annulment of marriage before the courts provided that he did not willingly cohabit with his wife after the exertion of the duress has ceased.

It is important to note that a petition for annulment of marriage must be filed before the lapse of a specific period otherwise the action will be barred by prescription. Under the law, the period within which to file a petition for annulment based on the ground of vitiated consent is “…within five years from the time the force, intimidation or undue influence disappeared or ceased” (Article 47(4), Family Code of the Philippines). Therefore, if the force and/or intimidation exerted by your brother’s father-in-law has ceased, then he must file the aforementioned petition in court within five (5) years counting from the time the said force and/or intimidation ceased.

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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