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Broken family and psychological incapacity in annulment cases

Psychological incapacity in annulment cases may be attributed to the hostile home environment of the spouse who is a product of a broken family.

In the case of De Silva vs De Silva (GR 247985, October 13, 2021), the Supreme Court took cognizance of the psychiatrist’s report, which explained that husband’s psychological incapacity was rooted in his upbringing long before his marriage.

The wife cited in the annulment case, among others, incidents when she would fail to hand over money for the husband’s ardent gambling, she would be subjected to physical and verbal abuse.

The wife also found out that aside from his drinking and gambling, the husband maintained several extramarital affairs.

The report noted that the kind of relationship that the spouses have created is seen to be parasitic in the sense that the husband is feeding off from the efforts of the wife.

The psychiatrist was able to trace the history of the husband’s psychological condition and relate it to his existing incapacity at the time of the celebration of the marriage through interviews of the parties and the relatives.

It was his hostile family environment that deprived him of his awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he assumed.

The husband developed traits such as untrustworthiness, irresponsibility, aggressiveness, lack of compassion and remorse antedating the marriage.

The Court said that the culprits behind the development of these antisocial traits of the husband are the kind of parenting style that he was raised to and the home environment that he was exposed to during the early years of his life.

The broken family set-up and the actuations of his parents during the early years of his life have molded him into the kind of person that he became.

Having no good example to influence the husband in a healthy functioning and straighten his maladaptive manner of going about his expected tasks and roles, he had persisted to be reckless, immature, rebellious, and insensitive.

From childhood until adulthood, the husband failed to change and his irresponsible ways have become more prominent when he reached the latter stage of his development.

The marriage had deteriorated due to the psychological incapacitation of the husband as well as the relative psychological disturbance that the wife suffered from.

The Supreme Court reiterated its ruling in the recent case of Tan-Andal v. Andal (GR 196359, May 11, 2021) that psychological incapacity is a legal concept, not a medical one, where the testimony of a psychologist or psychiatrist as evidence is not mandatory in the declaration of nullity of marriage cases.

The unanimous decision modified the interpretation of requirements of psychological incapacity, which was penned by my UP Law Professor, Justice Marvic Leonen.

The Supreme Court noted that psychological incapacity refers to a personal condition that prevents a spouse to comply with fundamental marital obligations only in relation to a specific partner that may exist at the time of the marriage but may have revealed through behavior subsequent to the ceremonies.

The totality of the evidence must show clear and convincing proof to cause the declaration of nullity of marriage.

While ideally, the person to be diagnosed should be personally interviewed, it is accepted practice in psychiatry to base a person’s psychiatric history on collateral information, or information from sources aside from the person evaluated. This is usually done if the patient is not available, incapable, or otherwise refuses to cooperate.

The Supreme Court added that it need not be a mental or personality disorder. It need not be a permanent and incurable condition.

Article 36 of the Family Code holds that “a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang and Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.

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