Article 36 of the Family Code states that “(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.”
In Santos vs. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 112019; 4 January 1995), the Supreme Court said that “psychological incapacity” must be characterized by (a) gravity, (b) juridical antecedence, and (c) incurability. It 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.” The intendment of the law, said the Court, was to confine the meaning of “psychological incapacity” to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.
In Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals and Molina (G.R. No. 108763, 13 February 1997), the Supreme Court laid down the following guidelines in the interpretation and application of Article 36 of the Family Code:
(1) The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage belongs to the plaintiff. Any doubt should be resolved in favor of the existence and continuation of the marriage and against its dissolution and nullity. This is rooted in the fact that both our Constitution and our laws cherish the validity of marriage and unity of the family
(2) The root cause of the psychological incapacity must be: (a) medically or clinically identified, (b) alleged in the complaint, (c) sufficiently proven by experts and (d) clearly explained in the decision. The incapacity must be psychological – not physical, although its manifestations and/or symptoms may be physical. The evidence must convince the court that the parties or one of them was mentally or psychically ill to such an extent that the person could not have known the obligations he was assuming, or knowing them, could not have given valid assumption thereof. Expert evidence may be given by qualified psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.
(3) The incapacity must be proven to be existing at “the time of the celebration” of the marriage. The manifestation of the illness need not be perceivable at such time, but the illness itself must have attached at such moment or prior to such moment.
(4) The incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Such incurability may be absolute or even relative only in regard to the other spouse, not necessarily absolutely against everyone of the same sex. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage, like the exercise of a profession or employment in a job.
(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. Thus, “mild characteriological peculiarities, mood changes, occasional emotional outbursts” cannot be accepted as root causes. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will. In other words, there is a natal or supervening disabling factor in the person, an adverse integral element in the personality structure that effectively incapacitates the person from really accepting and thereby complying with the obligations essential to marriage.
(6) The essential marital obligations must be those embraced by Articles 68 up to 71 of the Family Code as regards the husband and wife as well as Articles 220, 221 and 225 of the same Code in regard to parents and their children. Such non-complied marital obligation(s) must also be stated in the petition, proven by evidence and included in the text of the decision.
(7) Interpretations given by the National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, while not controlling or decisive, should be given great respect by our courts.
In Marcos vs. Marcos (G.R. No. 136490, 19 October 2000), the Supreme Court clarified that there is no requirement that the defendant/respondent spouse should be personally examined by a physician or psychologist as a condition sine qua non for the declaration of nullity of marriage based on psychological incapacity. It is no longer necessary to introduce expert opinion in a petition under Article 36 of the Family Code if the totality of evidence shows that psychological incapacity exists and its gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability can be duly established. (Suazo vs. Suazo, G.R. No. 164493; 10 March 2010)
In Te vs. Te (G.R. No. 161793; 13 February 2009), the Supreme Court suggested the relaxation of the stringent requirements of Molina (Suazo vs. Suazo, G.R. No. 164493; 10 March 2010), stressing that in applying the Molina standards, each case must be judged, not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations but according to its own facts, and that 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.