Cancellation cases no longer need expert testimony, Supreme Court says

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MANILA, Philippines – Couples seeking to legally end their marriage due to psychological disability will no longer have to present mental health experts to testify in court, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

In a landmark decision, the 15-member tribunal unanimously agreed that psychological incapacity, one of the most frequently cited grounds in annulment cases, was “not a medical concept, but a concept. legal ”.

The High Court made the ruling in its consideration of an annulment case at its weekly bench session on Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s information office said.

“(Psychological incapacity) means a personal condition which prevents a spouse (from complying with) basic marital obligations only towards a specific partner who may exist at the time of marriage, but which may have been revealed by behavior after the ceremonies, ”the court said.

“It doesn’t have to be a mental or a personality disorder. It doesn’t have to be a permanent, incurable condition. Therefore, the testimony of a (a) psychologist or psychiatrist is not mandatory in all cases, ”added the court.

He stressed that in annulment cases, “the totality of the evidence must show clear and convincing evidence to result in the declaration of nullity of the marriage”.

New interpretation

The decision changed the interpretation of section 36 of Republic Act No. 8533, or the Philippine Family Code, which listed psychological incapacity among the grounds for seeking annulment of a marriage.

The provision stipulates that a marriage “contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapable of complying with the essential matrimonial obligations of the marriage, is also void even if this incapacity does not manifest itself until after its celebration”.

The higher court has yet to make available a copy of the resolution, which was drafted by Associate Judge Marvic Leonen, also known as #LabGuru on his Twitter account where he posts his opinions and short poems on l love and relationships.

In the absence of a divorce law in the Philippines, there are only two legal remedies for problematic and irreconcilable marriages: legal separation and annulment, which are provided for by the Family Code signed by the then President Corazon Aquino in July 1987.

Long and expensive process

But these remedies have proven to be long and expensive, often taking years to resolve and costing up to £ 1 million, according to the Philippine Commission on Women.

In addition to the psychological incapacity provided for in article 36 of the code, article 45 allows the annulment of a marriage if one of the spouses is between 18 and 20 years old at the time of the marriage which was celebrated without the consent. a parent or guardian; found to be unhealthy in spirit; has forged or forced consent; physically incapable of consummating the marriage and declared to have a “serious and incurable” sexually transmitted disease.

Depending on the circumstances, the action for annulment must be filed by the injured party within five years of the celebration of the marriage, or after the discovery of the offense and the fraudulent act.

Either of the spouses whose marriage has been annulled can remarry by complying with the requirements of the Family Code.

Legal separation

Under article 55 of the same law, legal separation can be requested within five years of the occurrence of the offense for the following reasons: repeated physical violence against the applicant or the person. child of the couple; pressure to change religious or political affiliation; attempt to induce the applicant or the child to engage in prostitution, drug addiction and alcoholism; imprisonment of the respondent; homosexuality; infidelity and attempted murder.

Once legal separation is granted, the parties can live separately and share their property although their marital ties remain intact and valid, preventing them from remarrying.

In 2017, some 8,112 annulment and invalidity cases were filed with the Office of the Solicitor General.

–With a report from Inquirer Research (Sources: Family Code of the Philippines, pcw.gov.ph, osg.gov.ph)

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