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In 1995, Rosanna Tan and Mario Victor Andal married each other. They were blessed with one child. However, even before their marriage, Rosanna already observed Mario to be extremely irritable and moody. Earlier in their marriage, Rosanna also observed Mario to be emotionally immature, irresponsible, irritable, and psychologically imbalanced. Rosanna later learned that Mario was a drug addict. Due to his erratic behavior, Rosanna caused Mario to be confined in a drug rehab center twice. Mario’s irresponsibility even caused the closure of their family business. Mario also exposed their daughter to his drug use. In December 2000, fed up with Mario, Rosanna chose to live separately from him. In August 2003, Rosanna filed a petition to have her marriage with Mario be declared void on the ground that Mario was psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations.
To prove her case, she presented a psychologist (Dr. Fonso Garcia) who, after interviewing Rosanna, Rosanna’s daughter, and Rosanna’s sister, concluded that Mario was psychologically incapacitated to perform essential marital obligations. Dr. Garcia did not interview Mario as the latter, despite invitation, refused an interview. In her assessment, Dr. Garcia found Mario to be suffering from Narcissistic Antisocial Personality Disorder.
In May 2007, the trial court voided the marriage between Rosanna and Mario as it ruled that Rosanna was able to prove her case. The Court of Appeals however reversed the trial court on the ground that the findings of Dr. Garcia was unscientific and unreliable because she diagnosed Mario without interviewing him.
ISSUE: Whether or not the marriage between Rosanna and Mario is void.
HELD: Yes. Dr. Garcia’s expert testimony is given due weight. HOWEVER, the Supreme Court declared, among others, that in psychological incapacity cases, expert testimony is NOT a requirement.
Below is the Supreme Court’s new set of guidelines in determining the existence of psychological incapacity:
1. The burden of proof in proving psychological incapacity is still on the plaintiff. The Supreme Court however clarified that the quantum of proof required in nullity cases is clear and convincing evidence which is more than preponderant evidence (ordinary civil cases) but less than proof beyond reasonable doubt (criminal cases). This is because marriage is presumed valid and in this jurisdiction, a presumption can only be rebutted with clear and convincing evidence.
2. Psychological incapacity is neither a mental incapacity nor a personality disorder that must be proven through expert testimony. There must be proof, however, of the durable or enduring aspects of a person’s personality, called “personality structure,” which manifests itself through clear acts of dysfunctionality that undermines the family. The spouse’s personality structure must make it impossible for him or her to understand and, more important, to comply with his or her essential marital obligations. Proof of these aspects of personality need not be given by an expert. Ordinary witnesses who have been present in the life of the spouses before the latter contracted marriage may testify on behaviors that they have consistently observed from the supposedly incapacitated spouse.
3. Incurable, not in the medical, but in the legal sense; incurable as to the partner. Psychological incapacity is so enduring and persistent with respect to a specific partner, and contemplates a situation where the couple’s respective personality structures are so incompatible and antagonistic that the only result of the union would be the inevitable and irreparable breakdown of the marriage.
4. As to gravity, it must be shown that the incapacity is caused by a genuinely serious psychic cause. It is not necessary that it must be shown that the psychological incapacity is a serious or dangerous illness BUT that “mild characterological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” are excluded. The psychological incapacity cannot be mere “refusal, neglect, or difficulty, much less ill will.”
5. Juridical antecedence. The incapacity must be proven to be existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.
6. Essential marital obligations are not limited to those between spouses. Hence, those covered 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.
7. The decisions of the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church of the Philippines has persuasive effect on nullity cases pending before secular courts. Canonical decisions are, to reiterate, merely persuasive and not binding on secular courts. Canonical decisions are to only serve as evidence of the nullity of the secular marriage, but ultimately, the elements of declaration of nullity under Article 36 must still be weighed by the judge.
SUMMARY: Psychological incapacity consists of clear acts of dysfunctionality that show a lack of understanding and concomitant compliance with one’s essential marital obligations due to psychic causes. It is not a medical illness that has to be medically or clinically identified; hence, expert opinion is not required. As an explicit requirement of the law, the psychological incapacity must be shown to have been existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage, and is caused by a durable aspect of one’s personality structure, one that was formed before the parties married. Furthermore, it must be shown caused by a genuinely serious psychic cause. To prove psychological incapacity, a party must present clear and convincing evidence of its existence.
The Supreme Court also emphasized that in voiding ill-equipped marriages, courts are not really violating the inviolability of marriage as a social institution which is enshrined in no less than the Constitution. Courts should not hesitate to declare such marriages void solely for the sake of their permanence when, paradoxically, doing so destroyed the sanctity afforded to marriage. In declaring ill-equipped marriages as void ab initio, the courts really assiduously defend and promote the sanctity of marriage as an inviolable social institution. The foundation of our society is thereby made all the more strong.