Guidelines in Psychological Incapacity (Article 36, Family Code)

Psychological incapacity, which a ground for annulment of marriage (which is different from divorce), contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations; not a mere refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less, ill will, on the part of the errant spouse. Irreconcilable differences, conflicting personalities, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, physical abuse, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity or perversion, and abandonment, by themselves, also do not warrant a finding of psychological incapacity.

Among the grounds for annulment of marriage, psychological incapacity is the more (if not the most) commonly used. It is also one of the more controversial provisions of the Family Code (Article 36). The guidelines (shortened here) in the interpretation and application of Article 36 were handed down by the Supreme Court in Molina:

1. The plaintiff (the spouse who filed the petition in court) has burden of showing the nullity of the marriage. Our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family, so any doubt is resolved in favor of the existence/continuation of the marriage.

2. The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

3. The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The evidence must show that the illness was existing when the parties exchanged their “I do’s.” The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment, or prior thereto.

4. Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job.

5. Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes.

6. The essential marital obligations must be those embraced 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. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

7. Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.

8. The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. No decision shall be handed down unless the Solicitor General issues a certification, which will be quoted in the decision, briefly stating therein his reasons for his agreement or opposition, as the case may be, to the petition.

Let’s examine some recent Supreme Court cases on what constitutes or doesn’t constitute psychological incapacity.

In Antonio vs. Reyes (G.R. No. 155800, 10 March 2006), the Supreme Court sustained the nullity of the marriage based on the psychological incapacity of the wife (respondent). As concluded by the psychiatrist, the wife’s repeated lying is abnormal and pathological, and amounts to psychological incapacity (for the “digest” or a more detailed discussion of the case, click here).

On the other hand, in Republic vs. Quintero-Hamano (G.R. No. 149498, 20 May 2004), the wife alleged taht her husband, a Japanese, failed to meet his duty to live with, care for and support his family. He abandoned them a month after the marriage. The wife sent him several letters but he never replied. He made a trip to the Philippines but did not care at all to see his family. However, while the husband’s act of abandonment was doubtlessly irresponsible, it was never alleged nor proven to be due to some kind of psychological illness. Aside from the abandonment, no other evidence was presented showing that the husband’s behavior was caused by a psychological disorder. It’s not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological, not physical, illness.

Although, as a rule, there was no need for an actual medical examination, it would have greatly helped the wife’s case had she presented evidence that medically or clinically identified his illness. This could have been done through an expert witness.

25 thoughts on “Guidelines in Psychological Incapacity (Article 36, Family Code)

  1. Annrose

    Good day Atty
    I received a letter fr a Psychologist re the case filed by my husband for the nullity of our marriage. We have been seperate for 13 yrs now.In the letter, it stated that I must undergo a Psychological Test and must contact her. I haven’t received a copy of the case filed,though. What if don’t wanna undergo a Psychological Test? What will be the consequences?
    Thanks and God bless

  2. titart

    Dear Atty,

    I would like to consult if my wife’s case can be qualified for PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY for being ONIOMANIA or SHOPAHOLIC which makes her unfit to be a housewife. Bilang may-bahay, ang mga bayarin sa bahay ay kanyang hinahawakan subalit ito ay kanyang nilulustay.
    Narito ang ilan sa kanyang mga paglulustay:
    – Hindi tamang pagbayad sa aming mga bills tulad ng MERALCO, CABLES etc…
    – Pagsangla sa aming mga alahas
    – Pagukuha sa mga ipon at allowance ng aming mga anak
    – Pagkupit sa Tuition Fee ng aming mga anak
    – Pag-utang sa Lending Institution gamit ang aming mga kasangkapan sa bahay bilang collateral
    – Paglubog sa utang sa Credit Card (BPI) at ng aking tulungan ay kumuha na naman ng bagong Credit Card (RCBC) at umabot agad sa Credit Limit na P15,000 sa kangyang unang buwan pa lamang
    – Pagsinungaling sa pagpapaduktor ng kanyang ama para lang makahingi ng pera sa akin
    – Pagnanakaw sa pera sa bangko ng kanyang OFW na ina (they are in join-account) na umabot sa dalawang-daang libong piso
    – Pagdaya sa aking pirma upang maka-utang sa bangko (PNB) silang mag-ina ng P2 milyon
    – Kaliwat-kanan na utang sa ibat-ibang mga tao gamit na kasinungalinagn na kagipitan ng aming pamilya na hindi naman tutoo.

    Salamat po…

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  6. 35

    Good day.

    Atty. I would like to ask, I have been married for more than a year now and I have noticed that my wife is not the whom I thought she would be. We have conflicts from the way we handle things to the way we think. She acts like a child when faced with stress and blames me for everything that goes wrong when she doesn’t get what she wants . she seldom has time for me after work and just dozes off to sleep at times. I’m also starting to lose physical interest in her since she doesn’t really do much to maintain /improve her figure. It is so much so that I’m not interested in her anymore which has led me to engage in an extra marital affair. What I would want to know is that is there anything that happened in the 1st year our marriage that I can use to have it annulled? Or is there enough evidence to haven it annulled? I could really use your advice. That I spend with her, I’m starting to resent her even more and more.

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  9. scorpio lady

    dear atty,
    Im marry 1997 in a civil wedding then separated 1999 until now at the present 2015 ,so 16 years no communications,nothing at all,just recently I knew he has a living in partner in quezon city for 16 yrs now…he is a seaman i need to file nullity of marriage?he never support me financially at all…so what grounds should I use for filling a nullity of marriage?he abandone me,he betray me ….pls help me ..

  10. marielyn

    i am married since 2003. but me and my husband is living in since i was 16 years old, and he was 20. i had to make that decision because he got me pregnant at the age of 16, while i was studying and in fact graduating in high school. i graduated high school while being 4mos pregnant with my firstborn. now, i have have 3 kids. the reason why i want to file an annulment is that i am tired of being abused, physically, emotionally, and verbally. he had an affair last 2004, and had a child wit that unnamed woman. i found out because he admitted that to me. unfortunately, i cant locate the woman and i have no evidence to support my claim. i have never got a job ever since because he made sure that i stay in the house to take care of the kids and to prevent me for having my own money so that i could be financially dependent to him. whenever i go out and buy something like groceries, and i fail to ask permission or let him know, he will hit me or accused me having an affair. so to avoid that, i will buy grocery with him, or take my kids with me wherever i plan to go, like paying bills, or go to the market, while he is at home drinking with his friends. he repeatedly punch, mauled, and kicked me and kids with the slightest reasons, or no reasons at all. he even got a knife and sit on my very heavy tummy because i was 8 months pregnant at that time with my youngest because i was just merely asking him to tone down the volume of the stereo and he is very drunk at that time. the kids, witnessed all of my sufferings. and to my grief, they also was a victim of my husbands abused. now i managed to find a way to finally get out of my miserable life. and it breaks my heart that my kids are still with him, since i have no capacity to actually bring them with me due to financial reasons. i am jobless and still processing my papers because i plan to work abroad. please help me sir. i really am in need of an annulment that would basically free me from my very unfortunate past, and move on in life provided i can take my kids with me. for after everything that’s being settled, i want a full custody of my children. i really need to know what to do, how to do and how much will i need to finance my annulment. i will appreciate any response sir, and i am thankful for the time that you actually read my concerns. Thank you very much sir, and more blessings po.



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