I was married last 2004 but since 2008, my husband and I have not been living together. He has now a new family; hence, I want to file for annulment. They said that annulment is only for people who have money to support it. But I don’t have much money for that. Can PAO give assistance and legal advice for people who want to file for annulment? Please help me on this. I tried to seek help from a private lawyer although I haven’t filed an annulment case yet. I asked him the grounds that I can use. He said that having a new family outside of marriage is not a valid ground for annulment but for a criminal case and it will not make our marriage null and void. He explained that the nearest ground that I can use is psychological incapacity. All his verbal abuse, being irresponsible, alcoholism and having no job to support me, are all these valid grounds?
The Family Code of the Philippines has laid down the grounds for the declaration of a null and void marriage as well as the annulment of a voidable one. None of these grounds include the circumstances mentioned in your letter. However, the summation of all of those conditions/situations would manifest that your husband is suffering from psychological incapacity.
Under the said Code, a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization (Article 36, Family Code of the Philippines).
Although the Family Code of the Philippines is silent as to the definition of the term psychological incapacity, it was however defined in numerous Supreme Court decisions. In the case of Lorna Guillen Pesca vs. Zosimo A Pesca (G.R. No. 136921, April 17, 2001), the Supreme Court explained the term psychological incapacity in this wise, to wit:
“xxx ‘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. There is hardly any doubt that 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.”
You may file a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage against your husband based on the foregoing ground. In filing the said petition, you will need the assistance of a lawyer. If you don’t have the wherewithal to defray for his services, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) may assist you, provided you are qualified. You may visit the PAO-District Office nearest to your place of residence regarding your concern.
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 guide you with our opinion 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 firstname.lastname@example.org