My husband is an Indian national. We got married in 2007. A year thereafter, I left him because I learned that he has a wife in India and they have two children. I just remembered that, prior to our wedding, he avoided getting his certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage, and so we were married without a marriage license. I also realized that he merely married me in order for him to continue staying here in the Philippines. Now, I just want to know if our marriage is even valid. If it is not, does that mean that I can marry another man?
Marriage is a contract which binds the parties thereof. Like other contracts, our laws provide for a set of requisites in order to consider a contract of marriage valid and binding. According to Article 2 of the Family Code of the Philippines: “No marriage shall be valid, unless these essential requisites are present: (1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female; and (2) Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer.” Article 3 of the said law further provides the formal requisites of a contract of marriage, to wit: “(1) Authority of the solemnizing officer; (2) A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and (3) A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.”
Given that a valid marriage license is one of the formal requisites mentioned under the law, the absence thereof renders a marriage void ab initio. (Article 4, Id.) This is further emphasized under Article 35 of the Family Code of the Philippines which provides that: “The following marriages shall be void from the beginning: x x x (3) Those solemnized without license, except those covered in the preceding Chapter; x x x”
Accordingly, your marriage with your husband is considered void from the very beginning because, as you have mentioned, your marriage was celebrated despite the absence of a valid marriage license.
Apart from that, your marriage may be considered bigamous if you can establish that your husband is, in fact, already married to another woman prior to the celebration of your marriage. This may serve as another basis for the nullity of your marriage. (Article 35 (4), Id.)
However, we want to emphasize that you cannot simply contract a subsequent marriage with another man. You must first seek for the declaration of nullity of your marriage before the proper court by filing the necessary petition. While a marriage may be considered void for causes provided under the law, it is not for the parties to declare the same on their own. The authority still rests upon our courts.
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 email@example.com