• Paraphernal property can’t answer for debt incurred by spouse during marriage

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My three siblings and I recently partitioned the pieces of property left by my parents. My share is a 150-square-meter residential lot and the property is already titled in my married name. Last August, my husband was sued for collection of a sum of money. A decision was rendered ordering him to pay P1,800,000.00 to the plaintiff. The sheriff is going after the 150-square-meter residential lot to be levied to satisfy the judgment. Is this property answerable to the debts of my husband?    
    Adoracion

    Dear Adoracion,
    The general rule is that all pieces of property acquired during the celebration of marriage and acquired thereafter belong to the absolute community of property. This is in accordance with Article 91 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states:

    Unless otherwise provided in this chapter or in the marriage settlements, the community property shall consist of all the property owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage or acquired thereafter.

    The presumption is that the property belongs to the absolute community of property; hence, it may be levied to satisfy the judgment of the court. It can be excluded from attachment when you can prove that the same is your exclusive property since you inherited it from your parents. Pursuant to Article 92 (1) of the same code, a “property acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title by either spouse, and the fruits as well as the income thereof, unless it is expressly provided by the donor, testator or grantor that they shall form part of the community property, is excluded from the community property.”

    To prove that the property is paraphernal, you must present clear and convincing evidence. This finds support in the case of Diancin vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 119991. November 20, 2000), where the former Supreme Court Associate Justice Bernardo Pardo stated:

    “As a general rule, all property acquired by the spouses, regardless of in whose name the same is registered, during the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership of gains, unless it is proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife. In the case at bar, the fishpond lease right is not paraphernal having been acquired during the coverture of the marriage between Matilde and Tiburcio, which was on April 9, 1940. The fact that the grant was solely in the name of Matilde did not make the property paraphernal property. What was material was the time the fishpond lease right was acquired by the grantee, and that was during the lawful existence of Matilde’s marriage to Tiburcio.

    “As held by the Court of Appeals, this presumption is rebuttable, but only with strong, clear and convincing evidence. The burden of proving that the property belongs exclusively to the wife rests upon the party asserting it. Mere assertion of the property’s paraphernal nature is not sufficient.”

    In your case, you have to oppose the attachment of the property and prove that the same is your exclusive property by means of clear and convincing evidence. The debt incurred by your husband, which redounded to the benefit of the absolute community of property, cannot be charged to the exclusive property.

    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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