Annulment Cases on the Rise

by Joel Roja/

MORE and more married Filipino couples are falling out of love.

This is true based on the data gathered from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) showing an increase in the number of annulment, legal separation and nullity cases being filed in various courts in the country.

Last year, a total 7,753 cases were filed seeking annulment, legal separation or nullity of marriage. Out of this number, 2,582 cases were lodged in Metro Manila.

Two years ago, the OSG said it has recorded 7,138 cases filed by married individuals seeking separation from their partners. The number is 19 percent higher as compared to the number of cases filed in 2005.

In 2004, there were 6,335 separation cases filed; 6,848 in 2003; 5,250 in 2002 and 4,520 in 2001.

Under the Family Code, non-Muslim Filipinos have three options to change marriage status — legal separation, declaration of nullity and annulment.

Annulment applies to a marriage that is considered valid, but there are grounds to declare it void such as lack of parental consent, insanity, fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence, impotence and sexually-transmissible disease.

A “declaration of nullity” of marriage, on the other hand, applies to marriages that are void or invalid from the very beginning. Among the grounds for nullity of marriage are minority, lack of authority of solemnizing officers, absence of marriage license, bigamous or polygamous marriages, mistaken identity, incestous marriages, void by reason of public policy and psychological incapacity.

On the other hand, in legal separation, spouses are still considered married to each other, and, thus, are not allowed to re-marry. The grounds for seeking legal separation include repeated physical violence inflicted by one spouse against the other or against a child; destructive addiction or behavior; and abandonment by a spouse without justifiable reason for more than one year.

“We are disturbed with the surge in number of annulment of marriage filed… We call on the church to do something about this,” Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said.

Devanadera noted that the usual ground being cited by those seeking to declare their marriage void is psychological incapacity.

Under the Family Code, psychological incapacity contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume the basic marital obligations.

Article 36 of the Family Code stressed that psychological incapacity must be medically or clinically identified to be considered as a valid ground in voiding a marriage.

It added that the incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage.

However, Devanadera admitted that the “psychological incapacity” ground is usually being used as an excuse by either of the party to find a new partner.

Meanwhile a total of 805 petitions have been last year filed seeking a court declaration of presumptive death of a spouse.

Under Article 41 of the Family Code, a marriage contracted by any person during subsistence of a previous marriage shall be null and void, unless before the celebration of the subsequent marriage, the prior spouse had been absent for four consecutive years and the spouse present has a well-founded belief that the absent spouse was already dead.


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