PSYCHOLOGICAL incapacity is a legal concept, not a medical one, where the testimony of a psychologist or psychiatrist as evidence is not mandatory in declaration of nullity of marriage cases.
This was the recent ruling by the Supreme Court en banc in the case of Tan-Andal vs Andal (G.R. No. 196359, May 11, 2021) when it issued a unanimous decision that modifies the interpretation of requirements of psychological incapacity, which was penned by my UP Law professor Justice Marvic Leonen.
The Supreme Court noted in a statement that psychological incapacity refers to a personal condition that prevents a spouse to comply with fundamental marital obligations only in relation to a specific partner that may exist at the time of the marriage but may have revealed through behavior subsequent to the ceremonies.
The totality of the evidence must show clear and convincing proof to cause the declaration of nullity of marriage
The Supreme Court added that it need not be a mental or personality disorder. It need not be a permanent and incurable condition. Therefore, the testimony of a psychologist or psychiatrist is not mandatory in all cases.
Previously in Republic v. CA and Molina (G.R. No. 108763), the condition must be proven to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable in order to constitute psychological incapacity.
Article 36 of the Family Code holds that “a marriage contracted by any party who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential martial obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its solemnization.”
The testimonies of psychiatrists or psychologists are usually mentioned in annulment cases, including those involving seafarers.
In Rolando Cortez v. Luz Cortez (G.R. No. 224638, April 10, 2019), the seafarer used the psychiatric evaluation report on his psychological incapacity at the time of the celebration of the marriage alleging that he was forced to marry the wife without love, and that he had no intention to do his full obligations as a husband.
He argued that that he married his wife to be able to work abroad as a seafarer, hence, he is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage.
But the Court ruled that such claim does not rise to the level of psychological incapacity that would nullify his marriage.
The petition for declaration of nullity of marriage would fail because the juridical antecedence, gravity and incurability of the parties’ alleged psychological incapacity have not been proven.
Mere “difficulty,” “refusal,” or “neglect” in the performance of marital obligations or “ill will” on the part of the spouse is different from “incapacity” rooted in some debilitating psychological condition or illness.
The seafarer’s claim of lack of realization that he has marital obligation to perform as husband to his wife is not a consideration under Article 36 of the Family Code.
What the law requires is a mental illness that leads to an inability to comply with or comprehend essential marital obligations.
Mere stubbornness or refusal to cohabit with the other spouse or the act of cohabiting with another person will not be automatically considered as a psychological disorder.
In Republic vs. Cabantug-Baguio (G.R. No. 171042,June 30, 2008), the clinical psychologist noted in his medical report that the seafarer’s personality disorders including his being a mama’s boy are serious, grave, existing already during the adolescent period and incurable .
He concluded that the seafarer appeared to be dependent upon his family and unable to establish a domicile for his family and to support his family.
In dismissing the case, the Supreme Court ruled that the mere showing of irreconcilable differences and conflicting personalities does not constitute psychological incapacity. Nor does failure of the parties to meet their responsibilities and duties as married persons.
It is essential that the parties to a marriage must be shown to be insensitive to or incapable of meeting their duties and responsibilities due to some psychological (not physical) illness, which insensitivity or incapacity should have been existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage even if it becomes manifest only after its solemnization.
Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email email@example.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)