Civil Law

KALAW vs. FERNANDEZ G.R. No. 166357 September 19, 2011 Psychological Incapacity Art. 36 Family Code


Petitioner Valerio E. Kalaw (Tyrone) and respondent Ma. Elena Fernandez (Malyn) met in 1973, maintained a relationship and eventually married in Hong Kong and subsequently had four children. Shortly after the birth of their youngest son, Tyrone had an extramarital affair with Jocelyn Quejano who gave birth to a son.

In May 1985, Malyn left the conjugal home and her four children with Tyrone. Meanwhile, Tyrone started living with Jocelyn, who bore him three more children.

In 1990, Tyrone went to the United States (US) with Jocelyn and their children. He left his four children from his marriage with Malyn in a rented house in Valle Verde with only a househelp and a driver.

The househelp would just call Malyn to take care of the children whenever any of them got sick. Also, in accordance with their custody agreement, the children stayed with Malyn on weekends.

Tyrone brought the two elder children, Rio and Ria to the US. After just one year, Ria returned to the Philippines and chose to live with Malyn.

Meanwhile, Tyrone and Jocelyns family returned to the Philippines and resumed physical custody of the two younger children, Miggy and Jay. According to Malyn, from that time on, the children refused to go to her house on weekends because of alleged weekend plans with their father.

Nine years since the de facto separation from his wife, Tyrone filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage based on Article 36 of the Family Code. He alleged that Malyn was psychologically incapacitated to perform and comply with the essential marital obligations at the time of the celebration of their marriage. He further claimed that her psychological incapacity was manifested by her immaturity and irresponsibility towards Tyrone and their children during their co-habitation

Tyrone presented a psychologist, Dr. Cristina Gates (Dr. Gates), and a Catholic canon law expert, Fr. Gerard Healy, S.J. (Fr. Healy), to testify on Malyns psychological incapacity.

Dr. Gates explained on the stand that the factual allegations regarding Malyns behavior her sexual infidelity, habitual mahjong playing, and her frequent nights-out with friends may reflect a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

The trial court concluded that both parties are psychologically incapacitated to perform the essential marital obligations under the Family Code.

The CA reversed the trial courts ruling because it is not supported by the facts on record.



Whether petitioner has sufficiently proved that respondent suffers from psychological incapacity.



The petition has no merit. The CA committed no reversible error in setting aside the trial courts Decision for lack of legal and factual basis.


A petition for declaration of nullity of marriage is governed by Article 36 of the Family Code which provides:

ART. 36. 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.


Psychological incapacity is the downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations. The burden of proving psychological incapacity is on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove that the incapacitated party, based on his or her actions or behavior, suffers a serious psychological disorder that completely disables him or her from understanding and discharging the essential obligations of the marital state. The psychological problem must be grave, must have existed at the time of marriage, and must be incurable.


In the case at bar, petitioner failed to prove that his wife (respondent) suffers from psychological incapacity. He presented the testimonies of two supposed expert witnesses who concluded that respondent is psychologically incapacitated, but the conclusions of these witnesses were premised on the alleged acts or behavior of respondent which had not been sufficiently proven. Petitioners experts heavily relied on petitioners allegations of respondents constant mahjong sessions, visits to the beauty parlor, going out with friends, adultery, and neglect of their children. Petitioners experts opined that respondents alleged habits, when performed constantly to the detriment of quality and quantity of time devoted to her duties as mother and wife, constitute a psychological incapacity in the form of NPD.


Given the insufficiency of evidence that respondent actually engaged in the behaviors described as constitutive of NPD, there is no basis for concluding that she was indeed psychologically incapacitated. Indeed, the totality of the evidence points to the opposite conclusion. A fair assessment of the facts would show that respondent was not totally remiss and incapable of appreciating and performing her marital and parental duties.


The trial court did not make factual findings which can serve as bases for its legal conclusion of psychological incapacity.

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