Civil Law

DEL ROSARIO v. DEL ROSARIO GR No. 222541, Feb 15, 2017 Psychological Incapacity, Expert Opinion, The Molina Guidelines

FACTS:

Rachel and Jose became romantically involved very soon after they met. They eventually got married, and were blessed with a son.

In 1998, Rachel went back to Hongkong to work as domestic helper/caregiver and has been working there ever since, only returning to the Philippines every year for a vacation. Through her efforts, she was able to acquire a house and lot in Nueva Ecija.

In 2011, Rachel filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage, alleging that Jose was psychologically incapacitated to fulfill his essential marital obligations. Rachel claimed that during their marriage, Jose conspicuously tried to avoid discharging his duties as husband and father, was hot tempered and violent. Rachel added that Jose would represent himself as single, would flirt openly, and had an extra-marital affair.

On one occasion, she caught Jose and the other woman with their child inside their conjugal dwelling.

Rachel presented the testimony of Dr. Tayag, who prepared the Psychological Report which stated that Jose suffered from Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) characterized by: (a) his lack of empathy and concern for Rachel; (b) his irresponsibility and his pleasure-seeking attitude that catered only to his own fancies and comfort; (c) his selfishness marked by his lack of depth when it comes to his marital commitments; and (d) his lack of remorse for his shortcomings.

The RTC declared the marriage between Jose and Rachel void on the ground of psychological incapacity. It relied on the findings and testimony of Dr. Tayag.

Jose appealed to the CA.

The CA reversed the ruling of the RTC, holding that the totality of the evidence Rachel presented was not enough to sustain a finding that Jose is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage.

The CA pointed out that the root cause of the alleged psychological incapacity, its incapacitating nature, and the incapacity itself were not sufficiently explained as Dr. Tayag’s Report failed to show the relation between Jose’s “deprived childhood” and “poor home condition,” on one hand, and grave and permanent psychological malady, on the other. Finally, it observed that while Dr. Tayag’s testimony was detailed, it only offered a general evaluation on the supposed root cause of Jose’s personality disorder.

Rachel’s MR was denied. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not an Expert Opinion is Absolutely Necessary in a Petition under Article 36 of the Family Code.

RULING:

Petition lacks merit.

The policy of the Constitution is to protect and strengthen the family as the basic social institution, and marriage as the foundation of the family. Because of this, the Constitution decrees marriage as legally inviolable and protects it from dissolution at the whim of the parties. In this regard, psychological incapacity as a ground to nullify the marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, as amended, should refer to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

It should refer to no less than a mental – not merely physical – incapacity that causes a party to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage.

The Court laid down more definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 in Republic v. Molina.

Nothwithstanding the Molina guidelines, note, however, that an expert opinion is not absolutely necessary and may be dispensed with in a petition under Article 36 of the Family Code if the totality of the evidence shows that psychological incapacity exists and its gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability can be duly established.

The evidence need not necessarily come from the allegedly incapacitated spouse, but can come from persons intimately related to the spouses, i.e., relatives and close friends, who could clearly testify on the allegedly incapacitated spouse’s condition at or about the time of the marriage.

In other words, the Molina guidelines continue to apply but its application calls for a more flexible approach in considering petitions for declaration of nullity of marriages based on psychological incapacity.

To be clear, however, the totality of the evidence must still establish the characteristics that Santos laid down: gravity, incurability, and juridical antecedence.

Ultimately, Dr. Tayag’s assessment, even when taken together with the various testimonies, failed to show that Jose’s immaturity, irresponsibility, and infidelity rise to the level of psychological incapacity that would justify the nullification of the parties’ marriage.

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