Published 18 November 2019, The Daily Tribune

Although a marriage is not always avoidable, the law provides grounds to have it declared invalid in cases of vitiated or diminished consent in contracting the marriage. Examples are coerced marriages or those involving fraud without which the other party would not have married the other. Annulment of voidable marriage should not be confused with declaration of nullity of void marriage, which will be the topic of our next article.

Strictly speaking, a voidable marriage is a valid one, yet if any of the proper parties files a petition for its annulment based on recognized grounds, the marriage can be invalidated.
The grounds for annulment of voidable marriages include a situation where one of the spouses, at the time of marriage, was over 18 years old but less than 21 years old, and the parents of that spouse did not give their consent.

Another ground is being of unsound mind, or if consent was obtained through fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence (Article 45, Family Code). Examples of fraud that can be a ground for annulment are:

•Non-disclosure of a previous conviction by final judgment of the other party of a crime involving moral turpitude, for example, murder, rape, robbery, among others;
•Concealment by the wife of the fact that at the time of the marriage, she was pregnant by a man other than her husband;
•Concealment of sexually transmissible disease, regardless of its nature, existing at the time of the marriage; and
•Concealment of drug addiction, habitual alcoholism or homosexuality or lesbianism existing at the time of the marriage. Note that if drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, lesbianism or homosexuality should occur only during the marriage, they become mere grounds for legal separation under Article 55 of the Family Code.

The above list is exclusive. No misrepresentation or deceit as to character, health, rank, fortune or chastity shall constitute such fraud as will give grounds for action for the annulment of marriage (Article 46, Family Code).

For example, although a party misrepresented himself to be the child of a prominent politician, or to be of a certain social and economic stature, or has espoused some other deceit that does not relate to the above-listed grounds, the same cannot be a ground for annulment. In Anaya vs Palaroan (GR L-27930, 26 November 1970), the Supreme Court found that the spouse’s failure to disclose a relationship that he had prior to the marriage is not one of the enumerated circumstances that would constitute a ground for annulment. While the other spouse may detest such non-disclosure of premarital lewdness, or feel that she was cheated into giving her consent to the marriage, the Court emphasized the exclusivity of the above grounds for fraud.

Lesser known grounds for annulment involve situations where either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage, or was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease found to be serious or incurable (Article 45, Family Code).

Despite the existence of these grounds, parties may ratify the marriage by cohabitation. This means parties who still live as husband and wife after the discovery of grounds for annulment are deemed to have lost the ground for annulment.

On the other hand, if any of these grounds exists and there was no ratification, the petition must be filed within five years from after attaining the age of 21, or within five years after the discovery of the fraud, or five years from the time of the force intimidation, or undue influence disappeared or ceased. If the ground is physical incapability to consummate the marriage or affliction of a sexually transmissible disease, the time limit is five years after the celebration of marriage. In case of insanity, the petition may be filed before the death of either party.

The petition shall be filed in the Family Court where the petitioner or respondent has been residing for at least six months before the filing date. If the respondent is not a resident and is not found in the Philippines, the petitioner may file at his/her residence or where the respondent may be found in the Philippines (Section 4, Rule on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages).

If granted, a final decree of annulment of marriage qualifies the spouses to remarry for then, the marriage ties will have been severed. The Family Code also provides that children conceived before the decree of annulment are considered legitimate.

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