Civil Law

Susan Nicdao Cariño vs Susan Yee Cariño

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G.R. No. 132529 – 351 SCRA 127 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Family Code – Article 40; Validity of Marriage as a Prejudicial Question

In 1969 SPO4 Santiago Cariño married Susan Nicdao Cariño. He had 2 children with her. In 1992, SPO4 contracted a second marriage, this time with Susan Yee Cariño. In 1988, prior to his second marriage, SPO4 Cariño was already bedridden and he was under the care of Yee. In 1992, he died 13 days after his marriage with Yee. Thereafter, the both Susan Nocdao and Susan Yee went to claim the benefits of SPO4 Cariño. Nicdao was able to claim a total of P140,000.00 while Yee was able to collect a total of P21,000.00. In 1993, Yee filed an action for collection of sum of money against Nicdao. She wanted to have half of the P140k. Yee admitted that her marriage with SPO4 was  solemnized during the subsistence of the marriage between SPO4 Cariño and Nicdao but the said marriage between Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño is null and void due to the absence of a valid marriage license as certified by the local civil registrar. Yee also claimed that she only found out about the previous marriage on SPO4 Cariño’s funeral.

ISSUE: Whether or not the court may pass upon the validity of the marriages herein to resolve the claim of presumptive legitime.

HELD: Yes. The marriage between Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño is void due the absence of a valid marriage license. The marriage between Yee and SPO4 Cariño is likewise void for the same has been solemnized without the judicial declaration of the nullity of the marriage between Nicdao and SPO4 Cariño. Under Article 40 of the Family Code, the absolute nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for purposes of remarriage on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void.  Meaning, where the absolute nullity of a previous marriage is sought to be invoked for purposes of contracting a second marriage, the sole basis acceptable in law, for said projected marriage to be free from legal infirmity, is a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void. However, for purposes other than remarriage, no judicial action is necessary to declare a marriage an absolute nullity.  For other purposes, such as but not limited to the determination of heirship, legitimacy or illegitimacy of a child, settlement of estate, dissolution of property regime, or a criminal case for that matter, the court may pass upon the validity of marriage even after the death of the parties thereto, and even in a suit not directly instituted to question the validity of said marriage, so long as it is essential to the determination of the case. In such instances, evidence must be adduced, testimonial or documentary, to prove the existence of grounds rendering such a previous marriage an absolute nullity.  These need not be limited solely to an earlier final judgment of a court declaring such previous marriage void.

The SC ruled that Yee has no right to the benefits earned by SPO4 Cariño as a policeman for their marriage is void due to bigamy; she is only entitled to properties, money etc owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. Wages and salaries earned by each party shall belong to him or her exclusively (Art. 148 of FC). Nicdao is entitled to the full benefits earned by SPO4 Cariño as a cop even if their marriage is likewise void. This is because the two were capacitated to marry each other for there were no impediments but their marriage was void due to the lack of a marriage license; in their situation, their property relations is governed by Art 147 of the FC which provides that everything they earned during their cohabitation is presumed to have been equally contributed by each party – this includes salaries and wages earned by each party notwithstanding the fact that the other may not have contributed at all.

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