There is a renewed call by several individuals and institutions for the passage of a divorce law in the Philippines which is the only country aside from the Vatican that has no such law. The debate is still between those who think that couples should be given an option to end a marriage which has become so difficult that reconciliation is not feasible. Others think that divorce destroys the family and will encourage more broken families. While others believe that the present Family Code is sufficient as a means of dissolving marriages. The most often used ground is “psychological incapacity” which according to one lawyer, is the most liberal divorce law in the world because the determination of psychological incapacity is on a case to case basis. This ground was introduced in our Family Code.
The Meaning of Psychological Incapacity
Article 36 of the Family Code states: “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”.The Supreme Court explained in the case of Santos vs. CA (G.R. No. 11219, January 4, 1995) that the concept of Psychological Incapacity was derived from Canon Law or the law of the Catholic Church. The SC even declared in the case of Republic vs. Molina (G.R. no. 108763, February 13, 1997) that the decisions of the tribunal of the Catholic church “should be given great respect by our courts” with respect to the determination of the existence of the condition. There is really no concise or exact definition of psychological incapacity but it can be gleaned from the article that such incapacity prevents the party to comply with the essential marital obligations of marriage. It is not enough that the party is clinically determined to be psychologically incapacitated. It has to be shown that the party is unable to comply with the essential marital obligations by reason of the condition. It should have existed at the time of marriage although it is detected only after several years. The Supreme Court denied petitions for declaration of nullity because the petitioner was only able to show aberrant behaviours such as violence, jealousy, denial of support, and others but failed to show that the party is suffering from psychological incapacity which prevents him from performing his martial obligations. An example is the unfortunate case of TV personality Amy Perez-Ferraris vs. Brix Ferrris (G.R. No. 162368, July 17, 2006) where the petition was denied by the SC.
The Effect of Psychological Incapacity
Article 36 declares that the marriage entered into by a person who is psychologically incapacitated is void but can the party so declared marry again? The Supreme Court made an emphatic statement in the case of Ngo-Te v. Yu-Te (G.R. No. 161793, February 13 2009): “The prospect of a possible remarriage by the freed spouse should not pose too much of a concern for the Court. First, because it is none of its business. And second, because the judicial declaration of psychological incapacity operates as a warning or a lesson learned….a would-be spouse of the psychologically incapacitated runs the risk of the latter’s disorder recurring in their marriage”. This is where many are confused. Is it not the necessary consequence of being psychologically incapacitated that the party can no longer contract a valid marriage since he is really incapacitated? Our present Civil Code does not prohibit a person to remarry because he was declared psychologically incapacitated. In the cases that were decided after Republic v. Molina the Court said that each case must be judged according to its own facts. It cannot therefore be said that a second marriage will also fail because as the court said “each case is to be treated differently” (Ngo-Te v. Yu-Te).