Not all unions need marriage license

Persida Acosta

Persida Acostapao

Dear PAO,
My parents were married in 1992, and I was born in 1993. My father was very abusive to my mother. I resent him, because of that, even up to now. I guess it was because there was no love between them to begin with. According to my mother, theirs was a marriage arranged by their parents.

My mother left my father and I went with her. She has been considering filing for the nullity of their marriage. She recalls that they did not secure a marriage license. Can this be a basis to file a petition in court? Will it matter that it has been more than 10 years since she left him?

Dear Ochong,
A valid marriage license is one of the formal requisites to a valid marriage (Article 3 (2), Family Code of the Philippines). The absence of such license may render a marriage null and void pursuant to Article 35 (3) of the Family Code.

Nevertheless, there are marriages which are exempted from the marriage license requirement, to wit: (1) marriages that transpired in articulo mortis or at the point of death of either or both of the contracting parties; (2) marriages that transpired when the residence of either party is so located that there is no means of transportation to enable such party to appear personally before the local civil registrar; (3) marriages among Muslims or among members of the ethnic cultural communities, provided they are solemnized in accordance with their customs, rites or practices; and (4) marriages between man and woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other (Chapter 2, Title I, Id.).

Accordingly, we cannot conclusively say that the marriage between your parents is an absolute nullity merely by reason of your mother’s belief that the same transpired without a marriage license. First and foremost, she must secure official documentations to prove that no marriage license was actually issued in their favor prior to the celebration of their marriage. Secondly, she must establish that their marriage does not belong to any of the above-mentioned exceptional cases.

Supposing that the marriage between your parents was in fact solemnized without a valid marriage license, she may file a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage before the Family Court of the place where she resides. This applies notwithstanding the fact that it has been more than 10 years since she left your father. It bears stressing that the action or defense for the declaration of absolute nullity of a marriage does not prescribe (Article 39, Id.).

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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