Psychological Incapacity: Basic Guidelines (Declaration of Nullity of Marriage in the Philippines)

The Family Code does not define the term “psychological incapacity” (Article 36). This provision is deliberately broad. The Supreme Court noted in  the 1995 case of Santos that based on the deliberations of the committee on the Family Code Revision, the provision is designed “to allow some resiliency in its application”. In Santos, the Supreme Court first declared that psychological incapacity is characterized by the following:

  • (a) Gravity – It must be grave and serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in a marriage;
  • b) Judicial Antecedence – 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 – It must be incurable, or even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.

The Court also noted in Santos that: “Psychological incapacity should refer to no less than a mental (not 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 by Article 68 of the Family Code, 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 intensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.”

The “more definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36” came in the the subsequent Molina case. [See: Psychological Incapacity (Article 36, Family Code): More Definitive Guidelines] [Sources: Santos vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 112019, 4 January 1995; Paz vs. Paz, G.R. No. 166579, 18 February 2010]


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