Civil Law

REPUBLIC v. DE GRACIA GR No. 171557 Feb 12, 2014 EXPERT OPINIONS, PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY MUST STILL BE PROVEN BY INDEPENDENT EVIDENCE.

FACTS:

Rodolfo met Natividad when they were high school students, and he was forced to marry her barely three months into their courtship in light of her accidental pregnancy. Rodolfo and Natividad have two children.

When Rodolfo decided to join and train with the army, Natividad left their conjugal home and sold their house without his consent.

Natividad moved to Dipolog City where she lived with another man  and bore him a child.

Natividad later contracted a second marriage with another man named and lived with him since.

Rodolfo filed a complaint for declaration of nullity of marriage before the RTC, alleging that Natividad was psychologically incapacitated to comply with her essential marital obligations.

Natividad informed the court that she submitted herself for psychiatric examination to Dr. Zalsos in response to Rodolfo’s claims. Rodolfo also underwent the same examination.

In her two-page psychiatric evaluation report, Dr. Zalsos stated that both Rodolfo and Natividad were psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations, finding that both parties suffered from “utter emotional immaturity [which] is unusual and unacceptable behavior considered [as] deviant from persons who abide by established norms of conduct.”

The Office of the Solicitor General, representing petitioner Republic, filed an opposition to the complaint, contending that the acts committed by Natividad did not demonstrate psychological incapacity as contemplated by law, but are mere grounds for legal separation under the Family Code.

The RTC declared the marriage between Rodolfo and Natividad void on the ground of psychological incapacity, relying on the findings and testimony of Dr. Zalsos.

The Republic appealed to the CA. The CA affirmed the ruling of the RTC.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the CA erred in sustaining the RTC’s finding of psychological incapacity.

RULING:

The petition is meritorious.

“Psychological incapacity,” as a ground to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, 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 which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the Family Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support. There is hardly any doubt that the intendment of the law has been to confine the meaning of “psychological incapacity” to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

The psychiatric evaluation of Dr. Zalsos did not explain in reasonable detail how Natividad’s condition could be characterized as grave, deeply–rooted, and incurable within the parameters of psychological incapacity jurisprudence. Aside from failing to disclose the types of psychological tests which she administered on Natividad, Dr. Zalsos failed to identify in her report the root cause of Natividad’s condition and to show that it existed at the time of the parties’ marriage. Neither was the gravity or seriousness of Natividad’s behavior in relation to her failure to perform the essential marital obligations sufficiently described in Dr. Zalsos’s report.

Further, the finding contained therein on the incurability of Natividad’s condition remains unsupported by any factual or scientific basis and, hence, appears to be drawn out as a bare conclusion and even self –serving.

Although expert opinions furnished by psychologists regarding the psychological temperament of parties are usually given considerable weight by the courts, the existence of psychological incapacity must still be proven by independent evidence.

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