Annulment And Psychological Incapacity In The Philippines

Wedding ringsIn the Philippines, mention marital discord and Filipinos will think of annulment of marriage.  Speak of annulment and they will associate it with psychological incapacity.  These terms had become famous concepts owing to the publicized annulments of prominent Philippine personalities in the recent years.

The terms annulment and psychological incapacity have both been used inaccurately, especially by the ordinary Pinoy.  Some explanation on the terms will help Filipinos understand their significance in our legal system.

Firstly, Annulment has been used as a catch-all term for terminating marriages.  In truth, Annulment is a legal remedy different from Declaration of Nullity of Marriage.  Annulment is the proper remedy if the marriage is one that is voidable or valid until annulled.  A marriage is considered voidable if there is a defect in any of the essential requisites of marriage.  On the other hand, Declaration of Nullity is the right remedy to have a marriage pronounced as void ab initio.  A marriage is deemed void if any of the essential and formal requisites is lacking.

Secondly, Annulment and Declaration of Nullity of Marriage do not serve to terminate a marriage. Unlike divorce which has as its purpose the termination of a marriage, the purpose of Annulment and Declaration of Nullity  is to have a marriage declared null and void by reason of any absence or defect in requisites of marriage, as if no marriage took place.

Now we proceed to discuss psychological incapacity as a ground for the Declaration of Nullity of Marriage.

The term psychological incapacity has been loosely understood by most Filipinos as any metal instability or disturbance.  It is also mistakenly associated with indifferences between conflicting couples.  Under the Family Code of the Philippines, psychological incapacity is one of the grounds which can support a petition for the Declaration of Nullity of Marriage .As a ground for the declaration of nullity of marriage, the incapacity must be restricted to psychological incapacity in complying with the essential marital obligations of marriage.  These obligations include the duty to live together, to observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, as well as to render mutual help and support.

While Psychological incapacity does not have an exact definition or example under our system, Philippine laws have given courts the liberty to interpret incapacity on a case-to-case basis.  However, in various decisions rendered by the Supreme Court, it characterized psychological incapacity as one that which refers to “a mental, not physical, incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that must be assumed and discharged by parties to a marriage.”  Further, the incapacity must involve “a senseless, protracted and constant refusal to comply with the essential marital obligations by one or both of the spouses although he, she or they are physically capable of performing such obligations.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly mentioned that the characteristic of the incapacity must be one that is serious, with juridical antecedence, and that which is incurable.  The incapacity is serious if the concerned spouse cannot carry out the normal duties of marriage and family life like any other person living under similar circumstances.  There is juridical antecedence if the roots of the incapacity can be traced to the personal history of the spouse before marriage, although its overt manifestations appeared only during the marriage.  Lastly, the incapacity is one that is incurable if any treatment given to the subject will no longer produce the desired results, or if the treatments required will require unreasonable time and resources beyond the capacity of the couple.

The filing of the Petition for the Declaration of Nullity of Marriage is confined not only to the “sane” party.  Recent rules and jurisprudence now provide that the incapacitated spouse may already institute the Petition to impute his own incapacity as the ground for the declaration of nullity of marriage.

Effect Of Foreign Decree Of Divorce In The Philippines

The Family Code of the Philippines discussed the effect of a foreign decree of
divorce in the Philippines if it is obtained by the alien spouse in a foreign country. Stated
briefly, if such divorce is validly obtained in a foreign country and as a result, the alien
spouse is allowed to remarry, then the Filipino spouse’s capacity to remarry shall also be

What are the requirements for a Filipino spouse to be allowed to remarry?

A. The alien spouse should file a petition for divorce;
B. The petition is granted by a foreign court and a valid decree is rendered dissolving
the marriage between the alien and the Filipino.
C. The divorce decree capacitates the alien spouse to once again enter a contract of

Who is considered an alien spouse?

It may either be the spouse who is originally a foreigner, or a spouse who is
originally a Filipino but naturalized in the foreign country. What is important is that at the
time of the filing of the petition for divorce, the spouse is already a citizen of a foreign

Why apply the divorce decree to the Filipino spouse when there is no divorce in the

This is for fairness and justice to the Filipino spouse who will be left behind by the
alien spouse once the divorce is granted. It is unfair for the Filipino spouse to still cling on to
the marriage when the alien spouse is already planning a new life with a new family.