The tale of a shotgun wedding, psychological incapacity and annulment

By: ATTY. DENNIS GORECHO - Columnist/CDN Digital | February 16,2021 - 08:00 AM

Mere refusal to cohabit with one’s spouse will not be automatically considered as a psychological disorder in annulment cases.

Like in telenovelas, a seafarer’s story of shotgun wedding or pikot that led to an annulment case became the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rolando Cortez v. Luz Cortez (G.R. No. 224638, April 10, 2019).

The parties were married in 1990 but the seafarer filed 13 years later a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of their psychological incapacity.

The travails started when the seafarer was invited to a birthday party and after consuming three bottles of beer, he became dizzy and passed out.

When he woke up, he was already in a room with the girl and was clad only in his underwear and they were covered with a blanket. The girl’s brother, a policeman, suddenly entered the room and said “May nangyari na pala sa inyo, dapat panagutan mo iyan.” He was, however, allowed to go home.

The seafarer was already scheduled to work abroad.

While at the airport, he was stopped by a hold-departure order issued by the POEA because of the girl’s complaint as she was then pregnant.

He was able to depart days later after he was forced by the girl’s brothers to marry her and designating her as his allottee.

He never cohabited with his wife who gave birth to two children. Years later, the seafarer disputed his paternity of the two (2) children as he  subjected himself to a semenal examination which showed that he had low sperm count and did not have the capacity to impregnate a woman.

He, however, continued giving financial support to avoid being harassed. He described their marriage as one attended by force and reluctance.

He claimed that they got married not out of love but because of wife’s desire to ensure material support for herself and the children.

The seafarer also argued that that he married his wife to be able to work abroad as a seafarer, hence, he is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage.

He used the psychiatric evaluation report on his alleged psychological incapacity at the time of the celebration of the marriage since he was forced to marry the wife without love, and that he had no intention to do his full obligations as a husband.

But the Court ruled that such claim does not rise to the level of psychologically incapacity that would nullify his marriage.

The petition for declaration of nullity of marriage would fail because the juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability of the parties’ alleged psychological incapacity have not been proven.

Psychological incapacity must be characterized by: (a) gravity (i.e., it must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage); (b) juridical antecedence (i.e., it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage); and (c) incurability i.e., it must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.) (Cruz vs. Cruz (October 11, 2017 G.R. No. 201988)

Mere “difficulty,” “refusal,” or “neglect” in the performance of marital obligations or “ill will” on the part of the spouse is different from “incapacity” rooted on some debilitating psychological condition or illness.

The seafarer’s claim of lack of realization that he has marital obligation to perform as husband to his wife is not a consideration under Article 36 of the Family Code.

What the law requires is a mental illness that leads to an inability to comply with or comprehend essential marital obligations.

Mere stubbornness or refusal to cohabit with the other spouse or the act of cohabiting with another person will not be automatically considered as a psychological disorder.

The complained acts depicting the alleged psychological disorder also happened after the marriage.

Demanding financial support for one’s own children cannot even be considered morally or fundamentally wrong, much less a disorder.

It is essential that the parties to a marriage must be shown to be insensitive to or incapable of meeting their duties and responsibilities due to some psychological (not physical) illness, which insensitivity or incapacity should have been existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage even if it becomes manifest only after its solemnization.

It is downright incapacity, not refusal or neglect or difficulty, much less ill will, which renders a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity. The root cause thereof must be medically or clinically identified. There must thus be evidence to adequately establish the same.

Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)

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