Infidelity is not always Psychological Incapacity

The current trend in cases decided by the Supreme Court seems to uphold the validity of rocky (even dead) marriages as a recent case decided by the High Court prevented the dissolution of a marriage on the most common ground– psychological incapacity.

In this case, a married couple went their separate ways for more than 5 years, and the husband even lived with a third party and bore 3 children with her.   After the long separation, the husband decided to legally end his first marriage and filed a petition for declaration of nullity (“annulment” to laymen) in court.

The petitioner (husband) went through the usual procedures of proving his wife’s psychological incapacity by:

  • presenting a psychologist and an expert (priest) in canon law
  • alleging that he caught his wife in a hotel room with another man
  • alleging that she played mahjhong all the time and neglected her children
  • went out at night frequently and dated other men
The wife refuted all these allegations saying that she played mahjhong only 3 times a week and always with the husband’s consent, that she was never caught in plain view half naked in a hotel room with another man, and that she took care of all her children. After battling it out in the lower court and Court of Appeals, the parties presented their case to the Supreme Court which upheld the validity of the marriage.  It viewed the acrimony and infidelity of the spouses as circumstances which may have prevented them from keeping their marriage– possible grounds for legal separation, but not necessarily constitutive of psychological incapacity to nullify the marriage.   (The case of Valerio Kalaw vs. Ma. Elena Fernandez, G.R. No. 166357, Sept. 19. 2011)
Personal note:  After having been separated from her husband for so many years, and with full knowledge that he already lives with another woman and 3 children, what could possibly be the reason for the wife’s opposition to the declaration of nullity on ground of psychological incapacity? Pride can be self-defeating.

10 thoughts on “Infidelity is not always Psychological Incapacity

  1. Gary and Logan C******

    Hello Atty:This case is similar to mine that I dropped after 3 years of postponements and no hearing.Does evidence inter into the decision? Also are some psychologists considered more credible than others?From what I am told witnesses testimony is usually disregarded as hear-say–is that correct?
    Thank You

    1. Atty. Post author

      Gary and Logan C****: Yes, the Supreme Court ruled against nullity because there wasn’t enough evidence to convince them of the presence of psychological incapacity. While credibility of the expert witness (psychologist/psychiatrist) is important, even the most renowned expert still needs to show his/her basis for finding psychological incapacity. And the prevailing trend is that the psychiatrist/psychologist must examine both parties (not just the client who retained them) in order to satisfy the court of the expert findings. In this case as in other cases of the same outcome, the expert only examined one party as the other was uncooperative. (as is usually the case).

  2. Gary and Logan C*****

    Thank you so much for explaining to me.Do you know who denied the Psychological evaluation-husband or wife?If ordered by the husband and denied by the wife would that be (almost)an admission of guilt.To be psychologically unfit and in denial would seem to be hand in hand and I cannot imagine ordering the evaluation (by the husband) if the husband would not agree to one also.

    1. Atty. Post author

      Gary: The husband’s psychologist did not examine the wife. The court goes by actual evidence such as clear findings of psychological incapacity based on an actual exam. This is not the first time that the other party is unwilling to cooperate in the psychological exam of the parties. But in all those other cases that have succeeded in their quest for nullity, the other party found incapacitated usually never bothered to question the court’s decision because they all aim for the same thing anyway– legal freedom from the broken marriage. So, now in the case just cited, both remain locked in marriage and can only go for legal separation, which situation prevents either from remarrying in the Philippines. Empty victory.

  3. ger

    good day!
    is it right to follow-up on an annulment case’s status? where or who can i inquire it from? it was filed in RTC of Quezon City 2007

    1. Atty. Post author

      Ger: If it’s your own annulment case that is pending in court, yes, it is alright to check on the current status of your case. You may go to the branch of the court where it is pending (take a look at the court documents, the header usually shows the branch number and the last portion will usually bear the name of the judge or clerk of court). You may ask any personnel on duty in the branch of the court where your case is pending about the status of your case. I hope this helps.

  4. lorygrace26

    hi can i ask what is the next when you get the DECISION of annulment of marriage?

    1. Atty. Post author

      Lorygrace26: You’ll have to get the document entitled “Decree of Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Marriage” and the Entry of Final Judgment from the same court where the case was pending. After which, you’ll have to process the annotation and cancellation of the marriage certificate at NSO. I hope this helps.

  5. patricia

    my boyfriend filed an annulment and now he was asked by his lawyer to undergo a psychological test…what is this for? and what’s the lawyer view about this…my boyfriend’s wife committed adultery that resulted an illigetimate child and left the kids to my boyfriend …abandoned them….

    1. Atty. Post author

      Patricia: It depends on his lawyer’s strategy for filing the petition for nullity– it’s possible for the ground to be based on psychological incapacity. And that may require a psychological assessment of BOTH parties even if the party filing the case feels that it is the other spouse’s fault. It’s also possible for BOTH parties to be psychologically incapacitated, but only an expert can determine that for the court. I hope this helps.

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