G.R. No. 127406 – 346 SCRA 86 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Family Code – Article 40 – Exception to the Rule
In 1977, Reyes married Anna Maria Villanueva in a civil ceremony. They had a church wedding in the same year as well. In 1980, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Quezon City declared their marriage as void; the civil one for lack of marriage license and the subsequent church wedding due to the lack of consent of the parties. In 1979, prior to the JDRC decision, Reyes married Ofelia Ty. Then in 1991, Reyes filed for an action for declaration of nullity of his marriage with Ofelia. He averred that they lack a marriage license at the time of the celebration and that there was no judicial declaration yet as to the nullity of his previous marriage with Anna. Ofelia presented evidence proving the existence of a valid marriage license including the specific license number designated. The lower court however ruled that Ofelia’s marriage with Reyes is void on the ground that when they got married in 1979, the marriage between Reyes and his first wife was not yet declared void. The same was affirmed by the Court of Appeals applying the provisions of the Art. 40 of the Family Code.
ISSUE: Whether or not the absolute nullity of the previous of marriage of Reyes can be invoked in the case at bar.
HELD: No. Indeed, Article 40 of the Family Code provides that: “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.” This means that before one can enter into a second marriage he must first acquire a judicial declaration of the nullity of the previous marriage and such declaration may be invoked on the basis solely of a final judgment declaring the previous marriage as void. For purposes other than remarriage, other evidences may be presented and the declaration can be passed upon by the courts. In the case at bar, the lower court and the Court of Appeals cannot apply the provision of Article 40. Both marriages entered by Reyes were solemnized prior to the Family Code. The old Civil Code did not have any provision that states that there must be such a declaration before remarriage can be done hence Ofelia’s marriage with Reyes is valid. The provisions of the Family Code (took effect in 1987) cannot be applied retroactively especially because they would impair the vested rights of Ofelia under the Civil Code which was operational during her marriage with Reyes.