Civil Law

Valerio Kalaw vs Ma. Elena Fernandez (2011)

image_printPrint this!

G.R. No. 166357 – 673 Phil. 460 – 657 SCRA 822 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Family Code – Marriage; Void Marriages – Article 36; Psychological Incapacity – Totality of Evidence

Burden of proving psychological incapacity is on the plaintiff

In 1976, Valerio “Tyrone” Kalaw and Ma. Elena Fernandez married each other in Hong Kong. They had 4 children.

In 1985, Elena left Tyrone. Meanwhile, Tyrone had an affair with another woman and even had children with the other woman. Tyrone later on went to the US with that other woman and their children. He left behind his 4 children. It was a house help and their driver who had to take care of the 4 children. Elena would only visit the children on weekends.

In 1994, Tyrone filed a petition to have his marriage with Elena be declared void on the ground that Elena is psychologically incapacitated. He presented two expert witnesses, namely: Dr. Cristina Gates (Psychologist) and Fr. Gerard Healy (Catholic Canon Law Expert).

Dr. Gates testified that based on her interview with Tyrone as to Elena’s personality, she concluded that Elena is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. This was manifested by her sexual infidelity, habitual mahjong playing, and her frequent nights-out with friends.

Fr. Healy corroborated the testimony of Dr. Gates. However, like Dr. Gates, Fr. Healy did not personally evaluate Elena. He even said that he assumed that the factual allegations made by Tyrone were true and that it is however the duty of the court to make a final determination as to the truth of such allegations. He merely evaluated the statements.

On her part, Elena presented Dr. Dayan. Dr. Dayan personally evaluated both Tyrone and Elena. After her interviews, Dr. Dayan concluded that both parties are psychologically incapacitated. She concluded that Tyrone is a distancer who is concerned more with his work and friends than his family, while Elena was clingy, immature, and doubtful of Tyrone’s love – in short, both are emotionally immature.

Other witnesses presented were their children who all testified that despite their parents’ differences, both took good care of them.

The RTC ruled that the marriage is void. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

ISSUE: Whether or not the marriage is void.

HELD: No. The Supreme Court emphasized that it is the plaintiff’s, in this case Tyrone’s, duty to prove psychological incapacity (so the SC did not discuss Elena’s, the respondent, presentment as to their psychological incapacity). Tyrone was not able to prove Elena’s psychological incapacity since the expert witnesses he presented heavily relied on Tyrone’s allegations of Elena’s constant mahjong sessions, visits to the beauty parlor, going out with friends, adultery, and neglect of their children. Tyrone’s allegations, which served as the bases or underlying premises of the conclusions of his experts, were not actually proven. In fact, during trial, Elena was able to rebut Tyrone’s allegations. Even their children testified that Elena attended to them and had no issues with the care shown them by their mother.

The most that the evidence can prove in this case are grounds for legal separation but not psychological incapacity.

The SC emphasized that psychological incapacity is the downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations. The plaintiff must prove that the incapacitated party, based on his or her actions or behavior, suffers a serious psychological disorder that completely disables him or her from understanding and discharging the essential obligations of the marital state. The psychological problem must be grave, must have existed at the time of marriage, and must be incurable.

Read full text

NOTE: This was reversed by the Supreme Court in January 2015 upon motion for reconsideration by Tyrone. Many said that the SC relaxed the application of Article 36 due to such reversal but was denied so by the SC Spokesperson Atty. Ted Te.

image_printPrint this!

Leave a Reply