Vices do not constitute psychological incapacity

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I would like to seek your advice. I intend to file a petition to have my marriage declared null and void. Is it possible to obtain a favorable decision from the court if my reason for filing the petition is the psychological incapacity of my wife? She is really an irresponsible mother and we have always been fighting about her vices.

Dear Naldie,
The psychological incapacity of either of the parties to a contract of marriage may be used as a basis to seek for the declaration of absolute nullity of such marriage. It is clear from the provisions of Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines that, “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.”

However, in order for the courts to grant such petition, it is indispensable for the party seeking to have the marriage declared as null and void to establish that the erring party is in fact incapacitated to comply with his or her marital obligations. While there is no particular definition of the term “psychological incapacity,” our courts have been guided by the following factors: (1) gravity, (2) juridical antecedence, and (3) incurability. The Supreme Court even ruled that a party’s incapacity “x x x must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage; it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and it must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved. x x x” (Santos v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995, 240 SCRA 20)

Applying the foregoing in the situation that you have presented before us, we believe that, at this point, it cannot be concluded whether or not such petition will yield a favorable decision from the court. The fact that your wife is an irresponsible mother and that she has vices which may affect her relationship with you and your children cannot be necessarily equated to her being psychologically incapacitated. Her incapacity must be clinically determined and proven to be grave and incurable, and there must be substantial evidence which undeniably shows that she cannot comply with her marital obligations, that is, to live together with her spouse, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support in consonance with Article 68 of the Family Code.

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


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1 Comment

  1. Time after time after time you will see reason why there should be an easy way for couples to get a divorce. Dont listen to the stupid argument of these senators & religious freaks who say divorce will be the end of the family. Its ok for them if their marriage breaks down as they can afford an annulment. In every civalised country there is divorce & the reason its there is because sometimes relationships break down & people part & wont get back together, then they might meet someone else & want to get married again. Its that simple but the pinoy has a way of making a simple thing a very difficult thing.