My marital relationship has been on the rocks for quite some time. In one of our recent arguments, my wife suddenly blurted out that she can get out of our relationship anytime she wants to as our marriage is defective because our marriage license is fake. Her words startled me, but thinking back, I can’t remember requesting a marriage license. May I know what would be the legal implications if our marriage license is really fake?
At the outset, it is important to note that a valid marriage license is one of the formal requisites of marriage under our Family Code (Art. 3, Executive Order No. 209). The succeeding article then provides that the absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio (Art. 4, Id.). Finally, Article 35 (3) of the same Code explicitly states that a marriage solemnized without a marriage license is void from the beginning unless the marriage is exempted from the license requirement.
The exemptions refer to in articulo mortis marriages where one or both parties are at the point of death at the time of marriage, instances where 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, and marriages between persons who have cohabited as husband and wife for at least five years without any legal impediment to marry each other (Art. 27, 28 & 34, Id.).
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the lack of a marriage license renders a marriage void unless it is exempted by law from such requirement. Thus, if your marriage license is indeed a fake one as your wife says, your marriage is considered void unless you can prove that it falls under any of the exempted cases.
A void marriage would mean that your children, if any, are illegitimate children because they are conceived and born outside a valid marriage (Art. 165, Id.). It would also mean that your property relation is not covered by the rules on community property or conjugal partnership. Rather, it is governed by a special form of co-ownership provided under either Article 147 or Article 148 of the Family Code.
Moreover, should your marriage be declared void, there would be implications against the rights of your spouse who can be said to be in bad faith for procuring a fake marriage license. Under the law, any donation by reason of marriage in favor of the spouse who acted in bad faith is automatically revoked. Similarly, the guilty spouse is disqualified to inherit from the innocent spouse. Finally, the designation of the guilty spouse as beneficiary in any insurance policy, even if stipulated as irrevocable, may be revoked by the innocent spouse (Art. 50 in relation with Art. 43(3), (4), & (5), Id.).
Nevertheless, we advise you not to take the statement of your wife as gospel truth. Prudence dictates that you verify the veracity of her allegation that your marriage license is a sham. To do this, you may go to the concerned civil register that allegedly issued your marriage license to check if its office has a record of your marriage license. If not, then there is a high probability that your marriage license is indeed fake. As held by the Supreme Court in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals, a certification from the concerned civil register that it has no record of the purported marriage license, unaccompanied by any circumstance of suspicion, serve as sufficient proof that such license is fake (Republic of the Philippines v. Court of Appeals, 236 SCRA 257).
We hope we were able to sufficiently address your concern. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on your narration and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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 firstname.lastname@example.org