Civil Law

Simon Paterno vs Dina Marie Lomongo Paterno

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G.R. No. 213687 – 868 Phil. 206 – 117 OG No. 33 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Article 147; Family Code – Special Co-Ownership – Property Regime of marriages Dissolved under Art. 36

Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage – How to partition properties acquired during a marriage voided under Article 36 of the Family Code

Simon Paterno and Dina Marie Lomongo married in 1987. They lived together for ten years until 1998 when Simon left Dina and their three minor children.

In 2000, Simon filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground that Dina is psychologically incapacitated. In 2005, their marriage was declared void.

In 2006, Dina moved in court that Simon be directed to declare the income he earned from the time of their separation in fact in 1998 until the time their marriage was declared void in 2005. The purpose of Dina’s motion was to include Simon’s earnings in the properties for partition.

Simon opposed the motion on the ground that under Art. 147 of the Family Code, salaries and wages earned by either party after the de facto separation of the parties in June 1998 are not considered part of the co-owned properties but belong solely to the earning spouse. The trial court agreed with Simon. Dina appealed this ruling of the trial court all the way to the Supreme Court (G.R. No. 180226).

Pending the resolution of G.R. No. 180226, Dina moved for the partition of the properties acquired before their separation in fact as she contend that those are not in contention. Simon opposed the motion on the ground that the trial court should wait for G.R. No. 180226 to be resolved.

The RTC granted Dina’s motion. Simon appealed this ruling of the RTC all the way to the SC.

ISSUE: Whether or not properties acquired after separation in fact are part of the special co-ownership if a marriage is dissolved under Art. 36.

HELD: No. The legal effect of a confirmation of a void ab initio marriage: it is retroactive to the time when the marriage ceremony transpired. In short, after the trial court declared Dina’s marriage to Simon void in 2005 because of both parties’ psychological incapacity, the marriage ceremony in 1987 was invalidated as if no marriage took place. This means then that during their ten-year cohabitation, Simon and Dina lived together merely as common-law spouses. This is where Article 147 comes in which provides in part: “When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares.”

SIDE ISSUE: One of the properties was acquired during their ten-year cohabitation but the mortgage was fully paid after their cohabitation, is that entire property part of the co-ownership or just the portion paid during the cohabitation?

It is part of the co-ownership. In the construction of the term “acquired,” this Court must be guided by the basic rule in statutory construction that when the law does not distinguish, neither should the court. A reading of Article 147 of the Family Code would show that the provision did not make any distinction or make any qualification in terms of the manner the property must be acquired before the presumption of co-ownership shall apply. As such, the term “acquired” must be taken in its ordinary acceptation. For as long as the property had been purchased, whether on installment, financing or other mode of payment, during the period of cohabitation, the disputable presumption that they have been obtained by the parties’ joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares, shall arise.

This is just a presumption, the parties can rebut the same during trial.

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