Civil Law

Yambao v. Yambao G.R. No. 184063, January 24, 2011 Psychological Incapacity, Article 36, Family Code

FACTS:

Cynthia E. Yambao (petitioner) and respondent Patricio E. Yambao were married on December 21, 1968. After 35 years of marriage, petitioner filed a Petition for declaration of nullity of marriage by reason of respondent’s psychological incapacity, pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code.

Petitioner averred that through all the years of their married life, she was the only one who earned a living and took care of the children. Respondent, she alleged, did nothing but eat and sleep all day, and spend time with friends; would not stay in his job for long, and would gamble away whatever money would come his way. When respondent started threatening to kill petitioner, she decided to leave the conjugal abode and live separately from him.

Respondent denied that he has refused to work, or that he gambled.

Respondent also denied that he threatened to kill petitioner, considering that there was never any evidence that he had ever harmed or inflicted physical injury on petitioner.

The RTC dismissed the petition for lack of merit. The RTC held that petitioner’s evidence failed to support her argument that respondent was totally unaware of and incapacitated to perform his marital obligations such that the marriage was void from the beginning.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC’s decision.

Petitioner’s subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, this petition.

Petitioner argues that respondent’s Dependent Personality Disorder was sufficiently established by her testimony and that of her sister, which testimonies were both credible considering that they have personal knowledge of the circumstances prior to and during the parties’ marriage.

ISSUE:

Whether the totality of petitioner’s evidence establish respondent’s psychological incapacity to perform the essential obligations of marriage.

RULING:

The Court holds that it does not.

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.

The intendment of the law has been to confine the application of Article 36 to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage. Thus, for a marriage to be annulled under Article 36 of the Family Code, the psychologically incapacitated spouse must be shown to suffer no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes him or her to be truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume.

The Court reiterates its recent pronouncement that each case for declaration of nullity under the foregoing provision must be judged, not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections, or generalizations, but according to its own facts. And, to repeat for emphasis, courts should interpret the provision on a case-to-case basis, guided by experience, the findings of experts and researchers in psychological disciplines, and by decisions of church tribunals. Judicial understanding of psychological incapacity may be informed by evolving standards, taking into account the particulars of each case, current trends in psychological and even canonical thought, and experience.

In this case, there is no showing that respondent was suffering from a psychological condition so severe that he was unaware of his obligations to his wife and family. On the contrary, respondent’s efforts, though few and far between they may be, showed an understanding of his duty to provide for his family, albeit he did not meet with much success. Whether his failure was brought about by his own indolence or irresponsibility, or by some other external factors, is not relevant. What is clear is that respondent, in showing an awareness to provide for his family, even with his many failings, does not suffer from psychological incapacity.

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