Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Declaration of Nullity of Marriage
Custody case is deemed instituted in a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage; A subsequent habeas corpus constitutes res judicata
Eric Jonathan Yu and Caroline Yu were married to each other. They have one child, Bianca Yu.
In January 2002, Eric filed a petition for habeas corpus with the Court of Appeals seeking to gain custody over Bianca.
In June 2003, Eric filed a petition to have his marriage with Caroline be declared void. He filed the case before the Pasig RTC. In the same case, he prayed for full custody over Bianca subject to the final resolution of the CA of his habeas corpus case.
In July 2003, the CA dismissed Eric’s habeas corpus case. Thereafter, Caroline filed her own petition for habeas corpus with the Pasay RTC as she sought full custody over Bianca. When Eric learned of Caroline’s petition, he filed an urgent motion with the Pasig RTC hearing his annulment case for him to be awarded full custody over Bianca. At the same time, Eric filed a motion to dismiss with the Pasay RTC arguing that Bianca’s petition should be dismissed for forum shopping.
The Pasay RTC denied Eric’s motion to dismiss. It ruled that it was Eric who was guilty of forum shopping because when he filed his petition for annulment of marriage with prayer for custody, his habeas corpus case with the CA was still pending.
ISSUE: Whether or not there is forum shopping in this case.
HELD: There is and it was committed by Caroline not Eric. Eric could not have committed forum shopping when he filed the petition for declaration of nullity of marriage with prayer for custody despite the pendency of his habeas corpus case because custody is an incident of the annulment case.
On the other hand, since custody is an incident of the annulment case filed by Eric, the subsequent habeas corpus case filed by Caroline constitutes res judicata. Judgment on the issue of custody in the nullity of marriage case before the Pasig RTC, regardless of which party would prevail, would constitute res judicata on the habeas corpus case before the Pasay RTC since the former has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter.
The SC directed the dismissal of the habeas corpus case filed by Caroline before the Pasay RTC.