• Psychoses: Grounds for psychological incapacity or legal separation?

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    Petitioner wife was a university professor while respondent husband was a college freshman. They met in 1977 when he became her student for two semesters. Two years later, they became sweethearts and eventually got married in 1981.

    In 1992, the wife filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) a petition to annul their marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity of her husband. She alleged that from the time they got married up to the time she filed suit, her husband failed to perform his essential martial obligations, namely: to render help and support to his family, to observe love, respect and fidelity, and to live together as husband and wife.

    She narrated that after college, her husband could not find a stable job for three years. Since she augmented her teaching salary by selling “Tupperware” products, coffee, rice and polvoron, they agreed that he would help the business by delivering orders to customers. But instead of helping, her husband’s smoking and drinking sprees, gambling, and womanizing caused her business to suffer.

    In 1986, her husband was able to get a job with the help of a family friend. However, he was employed for only five years since he availed himself of the company’s early retirement plan. Instead of spending his retirement pay for the needs of his family, he spent all of it for himself, consuming the entire amount within just four months.

    After the birth of their first child, she discovered two love letters written by another woman to her husband. Upon confrontation, her husband admitted to having an extra-marital affair. She pleaded for him to end his affair but despite his promise, he left their conjugal home and abandoned them. He eventually returned, and she accepted him in the hope of saving their marriage. However, he continued his womanizing, sometimes cohabiting with his mistresses, even contracting gonorrhea, which he infected her with.

    The courts dismissed the petition for failure of the wife to establish the fact that her husband was suffering from a psychological defect which deprived him of the ability to assume the essential duties of marriage at the time they were married. They held that the circumstances cited by the wife to support her claim were actually grounds for legal separation. Citing the case of Santos v. Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court emphasized:

    “Psychological incapacity” should refer to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as so expressed by Article 68 of the Family Code, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support… the intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of “psychological incapacity” to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. This psychological condition must exist at the time the marriage is celebrated…

    Other forms of psychoses, such as drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, lesbianism or homosexuality, and sexual perversion do not by themselves constitute psychological incapacity. Rather, it must be shown that they are manifestations of a disordered personality. More importantly, if these forms of psychoses should occur only during the marriage, they become mere grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code (Hernandez v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 126010, 8 December 1999, J. Mendoza).

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