Psychological Incapacity

1.      What is “Psychological Incapacity”?

According to Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines, A marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with his obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”

The Psychological Incapacity under Article 36 contemplates an incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations, and is not merely the difficulty, refusal or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will. It consists of:

(a)   A true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage;

(b)   The inability must refer to the essential obligations of marriage, that is, the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, and the procreation and education of offspring; and

(c)    The inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality.

It means that if one of the parties is psychologically incapacitated to comply with his obligation as a spouse, then the marriage is void from the very beginning. That is why the legal remedy is to petition the court for nullity of the marriage.


2.      When can the ground of “Psychological Incapacity” be used in the nullity of marriage?

The term “psychological incapacity” to be a ground for the nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of marriage. (Republic v. Cabantug-Baguio, G.R. No. 171042, June 30, 2008)

These are disorders that result in the utter insensitivity or inability of the afflicted party to give meaning and significance to the marriage he or she has contracted. (Toring v. Toring, G.R. No. 165321, August 3, 2010)

 

Psychological incapacity must 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. (Navarro, Jr. v. Cecilio-Navarro, G.R. No. 162049, April 13, 2007)

 

 

3.      How can I establish that there is Psychological incapacity in my marriage?

The Supreme Court had laid down the guidelines for the interpretation and application of Article 36:

a)      The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.

b)      The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision.

c)      The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.

d)      Such incapacity must be also shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.

e)      Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume essential obligations of marriage.

f)       The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221, and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children.

g)      Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.

h)      The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition.

(Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108763, February 13, 1997)

 

4.      What are the elements of the Psychological Incapacity, for the marriage to be annulled?

The elements of Psychological incapacity are:

(a)   Grave – It must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage;

(b)   Juridical Antecedence – It must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and

(c)    Incurable and Permanent – It must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved. (Dimayuga-Larena v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 159220, September 22 2008)

The Supreme Court held that psychological incapacity should refer to a mental incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants such as those enumerated in Article 68 of the Family Code and must be characterized by gravity, juridical antecedence and incurability. (Santos v. Court of Appeals, G.R.No. 112019, January 04 1995)

 

5.      How is Psychological Incapacity usually manifested?

Some of the instances below are manifestations of Psychological Incapacity are:

 

(a)   The refusal of one spouse to live, dwell or cohabit with the other spouse after marriage, without any fault at all from the aggrieved spouse;

(b)   By the deliberate refusal to give support to the other spouse, or their common children;

(c)    When marriage is unbearable due to compulsive gambling, alcoholism, drug addiction or violent jealousy of the spouse.


6.      Would the above instances be enough to prove the existence of psychological incapacity?

The incapacity of the spouse must such that, that it prevents him from complying with the essential marital obligations as stated in the Family Code, like:

(a)   To procreate children based on the universal principle that procreation of children though sexual cooperation is the basic end of marriage;

(b)   To live together under one roof for togetherness spells the unity in marriage (Article 68 of the Family Code)

(c)    To observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, for love, sexual comfort and loyalty to one another are the basic postulates of marriage (Article 68 of the Family Code of the Philippines)

(d)   To render mutual help and support for assistance in necessities, both temporal and spiritual, is essential to sustain the marriage. (Article 68 of the Family Code of the Philippines)

(e)   To jointly support the family for the spouses are joint administrator in the partnership. (Article 70 of the Family Code of the Philippines)

(f)     Not to commit acts which will bring danger, dishonor or injury to each other or to the family for the safety and security of the family at all times is a primordial duty of the spouses. (Article 72 of the Family Code of the Philippines)

 

7.      Would the presentation of an expert witness be enough to prove the existence of the psychological incapacity in my marriage?

The presentation of expert proof in cases for declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity presupposes a thorough and an in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist of expert, for a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity. It is indispensable that the evidence must show a link, medical or the like, between the acts that manifest psychological incapacity and the psychological disorder itself. (Suazo v. Suazo, G.R. No. 164493, March 12, 2010)

 

The incapacity should be established by the totality of evidence presented during trial. (Bier v. Bier, G.R. No. 173294, February 27, 2008)

 

8.      Is there a need for that the party alleged to be psychologically incapacitated has been personally examined by a physician or psychologist?

The Supreme Court held that, although there is no requirement that a party to be declared psychologically incapacitated should be personally examined by a physician or psychologist, there is a need to prove the psychological incapacity through independent evidence adduced by the person alleging such disorder. (Bier v. Bier, G.R. No. 173294, 27 February 2008)

Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that there is no requirement that the defendant/respondent spouse should be personally examined by a physician or psychologist as a condition sine qua non for the declaration of nullity of marriage based psychological incapacity. What matters is whether the totality of evidence presented is adequate to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity. (Marcos v. Marcos, G.R. No. 136490, October 19 2000)

Correspondingly, the presentation of expert proof presupposes a thorough and in-depth assessment of the parties by the psychologist or expert, for a conclusive diagnosis of a grave, severe and incurable presence of psychological incapacity. (Ngo Te v. Yu-Te, G.R. No. 161793, 13 February 2009)

 

9.      When does the action or defense for declaration of nullity prescribe?

The action or defense for the declaration of absolute nullity of marriage does not prescribe, regardless of whether or not the marriage was celebrated before or after the effectivity of the Family Code.

 

10.  My husband wouldn’t help me in the chores around the house, saying those are a woman’s job. Can I use the ground of psychological incapacity in my petition for annulment against him?

No. It bears stressing that psychological incapacity must be more than just a “difficulty,” “refusal” or “neglect” in the performance of some marital obligations. Rather, it is essential that the concerned party was incapable of doing so, due to some psychological illness existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage. (Marable v. Marable, G.R. No. 178741, January 17, 2011)

The intention of the law is 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. (Santos v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 112019, January 04, 1995)

Proving that a spouse failed to meet his or her responsibility and duty as a married person is not enough; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological illness.

(Yambao v. Republic, G.R. No. 184063, January 24, 2011)

 

11.  My husband started showing signs of being psychologically incapacitated about 4 years ago. However, we had been married for 15 years, and all that time, he was the perfect husband. Can I use the ground of psychological incapacity in my petition for nullity of my marriage?

No. The psychological incapacity must be proved to have been existing before the marriage. If after the marriage, the ground of psychological incapacity cannot be used. The Supreme Court had repeatedly pronounced that the root cause of the psychological incapacity must be identified as a psychological illness, with its incapacitating nature fully explained and established by the totality of the evidence presented during the trial.

 

12.  I have not been getting along with my wife for quite a while now. Can I allege psychological incapacity as a ground for filing an annulment case against her?

No you cannot. What the law requires to render a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity is downright incapacity, not refusal or neglect or difficulty much less ill will. The mere showing of “irreconcilable differences” and “conflicting personalities” does not constitute psychological incapacity. (Republic v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 108763, 13 February 1997)

 

13.  If there is any doubt in my case for nullity of my marriage, how would the court resolve the case?

The Supreme Court held that the Constitution sets out a policy of protecting and strengthening the family as the basic social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family. Marriage, as an inviolable institution protected by the State, cannot be dissolved at the whim of the parties. In petitions for the declaration of nullity of marriage, the burden of proof to show the nullity of marriage lies on the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity. (Republic v. Cabantug-Baguio, G.R.No. 171042, 30 June 2008)

 

14.  What will happen to the children if the petition for nullity of marriage has been granted on the ground of psychological incapacity?

The children will still be considered legitimate. Children of marriages void under Article 36 (psychological incapacity) and under Article 53 (second marriage without delivery of legitime to children of the first marriage) are considered legitimate, as an exception to the general rule.