Published 1 October 2021, The Daily Tribune

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) sitting en banc unanimously modified the guidelines on how to prove psychological incapacity as a ground for nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code (Art. 36). In the case of Tan-Andal v. Andal (G.R. 196359, 11 May 2021), the SC seized the opportunity to, once and for all, clarify the interpretation on ‘psychological incapacity’ as a ground to nullify a marriage.

Mario Andal and Rossana Tan got married on 16 December 1995. On 27 July 1996, Rosanna gave birth to Ma. Samantha. Prior to the wedding, Mario already showed signs of odd behavior.

Rossana still opted to see the good in Mario and accepted him for who he is especially since she was already pregnant with their child prior to their marriage.

However, during their marriage, Mario consistently showed the same signs of odd behavior that he was not able to assist Rossana, during their child’s birth. He also continued to struggle managing his finances and keeping their business together. He would even be gone for several days and could not justify his whereabouts to Rosanna. He would be very hyper-active at night, and would sleep all day when he is at home. Rosanna then found out about the drug abuse to which he did not deny but justified that he needed it to keep him going with all the pressures of his work.

The couple then separated, but when Mario pleaded Rosanna to come back, she gave him a second chance but knew she had to monitor him closely. However, the final nail on the coffin of their marriage was when Mario tried to bring their daughter somewhere without the permission of Rossana who was then busy with their business. Rosanna even asked for the help of Mario’s siblings to have him under control and try to rehabilitate him. Mario was very unhappy about Rossana’s insistence on his rehabilitation that one day, Mario’s actions led to Rossana calling the police to assist them and get him under control. The police then found packets of shabu in Mario’s person.

Rossana filed for the petition for nullity of their marriage under Art. 36. To prove Mario’s psychological incapacity, Rosanna presented Dr. Garcia, a physician-psychiatrist, as an expert witness.

Dr. Garcia found Rosanna “psychologically capacitated to comply with her essential marital obligations.” As for Mario, Dr. Garcia diagnosed him with narcissistic antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse disorder with psychotic features. Mario’s narcissistic antisocial personality disorder, which Dr. Garcia found to be grave, with juridical antecedence, and incurable, allegedly rendered Mario psychologically incapacitated to comply with his essential marital obligations to Rosanna. Mario, for his part, contended that it was Rosanna who was psychologically incapacitated to comply with her essential marital obligations.

On whether or not the marriage should be nullified, the SC found Rosanna to have successfully discharged the burden of proof required to nullify her marriage to Mario. Clear and convincing evidence of his incapacity was shown through testimonies on Mario’s personality and how it formed primarily through his childhood and adult experiences well before he married Rosanna. It further ruled that psychological incapacity need not be scientifically or medically proven. The proof required for this need not be given by an expert. Ordinary witnesses who have been present in the life of the spouses before the latter contracted marriage may testify on behaviors that they have consistently observed from the incapacitated spouse.

With regard to the juridical antecedence requirement of the psychological incapacity, the incapacity must be characterized as incurable. However, the Court acknowledges that psychological incapacity, not being an illness in a medical sense, is not something to be cured. As such, incurability shall mean in a legal sense, not a medical sense, particularly, this means that the incapacity is so enduring and persistent with respect to a specific partner, and contemplates a situation where the couple’s respective personality structures are so incompatible and antagonistic that the only result of the union would be the inevitable and irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

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