Think twice and hard before seeking marriage annulment

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My husband and I got married in 1989 in an intimate church ceremony. What happened to us was a whirlwind romance. We got married after only five months from the day we met. We were both in our late twenties at the time, so I thought we were mature enough to get married. I just want to know whether I can have my marriage annulled because I just recently learned that he contracted another marriage prior to ours. I verified with the National Statistics Office and there is really a record of his two marriages, me being the second wife. Please help.
Maria

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Dear Maria,
Marriage is a sacred union. It partakes the form of a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman and may only be terminated or extinguished on the grounds provided under the Family Code of the Philippines.

As can be gleaned under Article 35 (4) of the code, bigamous and polygamous marriages may be declared void from the beginning, except a marriage which was contracted by a person who first sought from the proper court a declaration of presumptive death of his or her absentee spouse pursuant to Article 41 of the same law.

In the situation that you have presented before us, we cannot sweepingly say that, at this time, you may file a petition for declaration of nullity of your marriage on account of the information which you obtained pertaining to your husband’s first marriage. This is true even if the records of the Philippines Statistics Authority or PSA (formerly known as the National Statistics Office or NSO) reveal both his marriages to you and his first wife. You must first determine whether his first wife was still alive at the time of the celebration of your marriage in 1989 as this would greatly affect the validity of your marriage.

Accordingly, if his first wife was still alive at the time you and your husband got married and their marriage was not previously dissolved by the court, then you may file the petition before the Family Court of the place where you reside. On the other hand, if the first wife of your husband passed away prior to the celebration of your marriage, or your husband secured a declaration of presumptive death from the court either because his wife has been absent for four (4) consecutive years and he had a well-founded belief that his wife was already dead or that she has been absent for two (2) years and there is danger of her death, then we do not advise you to file the petition as your husband has no impediment to contract your subsequent marriage to him.

We recommend that take your time before filing the case and exercise caution and prudence. We want to emphasize that the filing of the petition for declaration of nullity of your marriage on account of bigamous and polygamous marriages does not prescribe. This is in consonance with Article 39 of the Family Code of the Philippines. Hence, it will be best for you to gather first as much evidence to prove your ground in order to secure a favorable judgment from the court.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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