• Marriage without a valid marriage license is null and void

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My husband and I got married 8 years ago. I was pregnant then that is why my parents were so much in a hurry for us to get married. Our marriage was celebrated without a marriage license because we executed an affidavit declaring that we are already living together for 6 years prior to our marriage. But this is not true because I only knew my husband for 8 months before I got pregnant. I was only 21 years old then. I want to file an annulment case against my husband since he already abandoned us 3 years after our marriage. Please help.

    Dear Aida,

    A marriage celebrated without a valid marriage license is null and void, unless the contracting parties are exempt from this requisite (Articles 4 and 35(3), Family Code of the Philippines).

    One of the exceptions mentioned by law where marriage license is not required is when the contracting parties have cohabited for 5 years or more as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage. However, during their cohabitation, the law requires that they must not have any legal impediment to marry each other. This is explicitly provided by Article 34 of the Family Code of the Philippines:

    “Art. 34. No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other. The contracting parties shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to administer oaths. The solemnizing officer shall also state under oath that he ascertained the qualifications of the contracting parties and found no legal impediment to the marriage.”

    Since as per your narration you did not actually cohabit with your husband prior to the celebration of your marriage, you were not exempt from obtaining the required marriage license. Thus, the said marriage is null and void in the absence of a valid marriage license during its celebration. The same is true, even assuming that you cohabited with your husband, considering that you were still a minor at the start of your supposed cohabitation. Being a minor is a legal impediment to marry, therefore, the provision of the above mentioned law is still not met.

    The significance of a marriage license was discussed by the Supreme Court in the case of Engrace Niñal vs. Norma Bayadog (G.R. No. 133778, March 14, 2000), to wit:

    “The requirement and issuance of marriage license is the State’s demonstration of its involvement and participation in every marriage, in the maintenance of which the general public is interested. This interest proceeds from the constitutional mandate that the State recognizes the sanctity of family life and of affording protection to the family as a basic “autonomous social institution.” Specifically, the Constitution considers marriage as an “inviolable social institution,” and is the foundation of family life which shall be protected by the State. This is why the Family Code considers marriage as “a special contract of permanent union” and case law considers it “not just an adventure but a lifetime commitment.”

    If you desire to file a case to have your marriage declared null and void, you may do so by filing a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage. You will need the services of a lawyer to prepare the petition and represent you in court during the trial of the case. If you cannot engage the services of a private lawyer, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) may provide free legal services to you as long as you are qualified as an indigent client.

    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.


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