Civil Law

LONTOC-CRUZ, vs. CRUZ G.R. No. 201988 October 11, 2017 Psychological Incapacity


Marivi Lontoc met Nilo Cruz and they became sweethearts in 1986.

The couple married in a civil ceremony followed by a church wedding. The marriage produced two sons.

Sometime in 2005, Marivi filed with the RTC a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity. In support of her claim that she and Nilo were suffering from psychological incapacity, Marivi presented Dr. Villegas, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Encarnacion, a clinical psychologist.

According to Dr. Villegas, both parties could not tolerate each others’ weaknesses and that the incapacities of the parties are grave because they preferred to satisfy their own needs rather than to give in to the other’s needs.

Dr. Encarnacion supported Dr. Villegas’ diagnosis.

The RTC denied the Petition.

From the RTC’s verdict, petitioner appealed to the CA.

The CA united with the RTC in rejecting the alleged existence of psychological incapacity.


Whether the psychological conditions of the parties fall under Article 36 of the Family Code to warrant the declaration of nullity of marriage.


We sustain the findings of both the RTC and the CA.

Article 36 of the Family Code states:

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.

We have laid down guidelines in interpreting and applying this provision. In Republic v. De Gracia,  we reiterated the doctrine in Santos v. Court of Appeals, “that 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).”

Also, in Republic v. Court of Appeals,  we reiterated the well-settled guidelines in resolving petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage, as embodied in Republic v. Court of Appeals, viz.:

(1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity.x x x.

x x x x

(2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. Article 36 of the Family Code requires that the incapacity must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. x x x.

x x x x

(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at ‘the time of the celebration’ of the marriage.x x x.

x x x x

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. x x x.

x x x x

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, ‘mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts’ cannot be accepted as root causes.x x x.

x x x x

(6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.

(7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts. x x x.

x x x x

(8) The trial court must order the prosecuting attorney or fiscal and the Solicitor General to appear as counsel for the state. x x x.

Notably, “mere showing of ‘irreconcilable differences’ and ‘conflicting personalities’ [as in the present case,] in no wise constitutes psychological incapacity.” “Nor does failure of the parties to meet their responsibilities and duties as married persons” amount to psychological incapacity. We further elucidated in Yambao v. Republic that the psychological condition should render the subject totally unaware or incognitive of the basic marital obligations:

Article 36 contemplates incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations and not merely difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will. This incapacity consists of the following: (a) a true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage; (b) this inability to commit oneself must refer to the essential obligations of marriage: the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, the procreation and education of offspring; and (c) the inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality. It is not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological illness.

Upon the view we take of this case, thus, this Court believes that the protagonists in this case are in reality simply unwilling to work out a solution for each other’s personality differences, and have thus become overwhelmed by feelings of disappointment or disillusionment toward one another. Sadly, a marriage, even if unsatisfactory, is not a null and void marriage.

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