The Supreme Court has modified its ruling on psychological incapacity as ground for the annulment of marriage, saying it need not be a mental or personality disorder.
In a precedent-setting decision on Tuesday, the 15-member bench unanimously voted to declare that “psychological incapacity is not a medical but a legal concept.”
“It 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 SC Public Information Office said, quoting the ruling penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
“It need not be a mental or personality disorder. It need not be a permanent and incurable condition. Therefore, the testimony of [a] psychologist or psychiatrist is not mandatory in all cases,” the high court added.
Data from the Office of the Court Administrator showed there are a total of 12,605 pending cases seeking the nullity or annulment of marriage as of February 15, 2021.
On the other hand, 4,954 cases seeking dissolution of marriage were resolved by various courts, including the Shariah Circuit Courts.
The record also shows that there are 178 cases seeking legal separation still pending before the lowers courts while 72 cases have been decided as of February 2021.
The SC stressed that the “totality of evidence” must sufficiently establish the justification for the declaration of nullity of marriage.
But the high court’s press office did not provide details of the case, as it has yet to receive a copy of the decision.
“The full opinion will be uploaded to the SC website once the PIO receives an official copy,” the office said.
Prior to the new ruling, the SC defined psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code as a “serious psychological illness” afflicting a party even before marriage.
The Court added that it is grave and permanent as to “deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume.”
Spouses are obliged to live together, observe love, respect, and fidelity, as well as render help and support as provided under Article 68 of the Family Code.
In 2000, the Supreme Court designated 68 trial courts as family courts to hear and decide complaints for annulment of marriage, declaration of nullity of marriage, and those relating to marital status and property relations of husband and wife or those living together under different status and agreements, and petitions for dissolution of conjugal partnership of gains and petitions for support and/or acknowledgment, among others.
Family courts were designated to implement the provisions of Section 17 of Republic Act No. 8369, otherwise known as the Family Courts Act of 1997.
Legislative measures have been pending in Congress seeking for absolute divorce and dissolution of marriage in the Philippines.