Sunday, April 17, 2011

CONTACT CONTRACT? (A spouse's refusal to have sexual relations is not a ground for annulment)

By Obiter07

A husband had reason to go up to the Supreme Court to try and have his marriage annulled on the ground of his wife’s refusal to have sexual intercourse. Sadly for him, the Court ruled,that such refusal is not tantamount to psychological incapacity (see Baccay vs. Baccay, et al., G.R. No. 173138 December 1, 2010).

The petitioner husband and respondent wife were schoolmates. Petitioner courted the respondent and it was only after “years of continuous pursuit” that they became sweethearts. At the outset, petitioner observed that respondent was aloof and distant to his relatives despite his efforts to bring them closer. He later on broke up with her as he found another girl.  Respondent refused the break up and offered to remain friends, despite the other relationship. But they still managed to have “several romantic moments” which petitioner treated casually until sometime in 1998 when respondent informed him that she was pregnant. Petitioner “grudgingly” married respondent, partly at the prompting of his mother.

When they set out to live at petitioner family’s house, respondent still remained aloof from the family, coming and going as she pleased and not contributing to the upkeep of the household. And she now refused to have any sexual contact. Petitioner did not observe any pregnancy symptoms, which observation was shared by respondent’s officemates. Later on, respondent failed to go home for one day and thereafter announced that she had a miscarriage.

Petitioner confronted her about this which intensified into a quarrel. When petitioner’s mother sought to intervene, respondent cursed here.  They were asked to leave the house.  Respondent’s parents then picked her up and never came back despite petitioner’s efforts.  After less than two years of marriage, petitioner filed “a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage.  Respondent did not participate in the proceedings. The RTC ruled in his favor declaring the marriage null and void. On appeal by the Office of the Solicitor General, the decision of the RTC was reversed based on the finding that the respondent’s failure “to establish that Maribel’s supposed Narcissistic Personality Disorder was the psychological incapacity contemplated by law and that it was permanent and incurable. xxx “

Petitioner went to the Supreme Court which found that the issue “to be resolved is whether the marriage between the parties is null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code.”

ART. 36. 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.

Petitioner argues that respondent’s “refusal to procreate” amounts to psychological incapacity. He states that their last sexual contact was before the marriage when respondent was drunk.  And that “if a spouse senselessly and constantly refuses to perform his or her marital obligations, Catholic marriage tribunals attribute the causes to psychological incapacity rather than to stubborn refusal.” Their pre-marital relations which petitioner considers as “casual” sex should be distinguished from “making love for procreation and consummation of the marriage for the start of family life.”  Respondent just railroaded him into marriage.  

Petitioner submits other indicia” of psychological incapacity as respondent displayed traits of someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder before and during the marriage.  Respondent would not mingle with his family and was rude to his mother.  She was “arrogant and haughty.” She was “interpersonally exploitative” when she misrepresented her pregnancy.  After marriage, she never showed respect and love to petitioner and his family.  He pointed out that the “psychological incapacity was proven to be permanent and incurable with the root cause existing before the marriage. The psychologist testified that persons suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder were unmotivated to participate in therapy session and would reject any form of psychological help rendering their condition long lasting if not incurable.  Such persons would not admit that their behavioral manifestations connote pathology or abnormality.  The psychologist added that Maribel’s psychological incapacity was deeply rooted within her adaptive system since early childhood and manifested during adult life.”

The Supreme Court was unconvinced.

In Santos v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995) the Court held “that the phrase “psychological incapacity” is not meant to comprehend all possible cases of psychoses.  It refers to no less than a mental (not physical) incapacity that causes a party to be truly noncognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage which, as expressed by Article 68 of the Family Code, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support.  The intendment of the law has been to confine it to the most serious of cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.”

In Republic of the Phils. v. Court of Appeals (335 Phil. 664, 676-678 (1997), the Court stated the guidelines in resolving petitions for declaration of nullity of marriage amongwhich is that 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. xxx” Moreover, the “incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable.”

In this case, the “totality of evidence” is not sufficient to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity.  The evidence merely established refusal to have sexual intercourse after marriage and that she left after the quarrel about the alleged miscarriage.  There was no proof of the “root cause of the alleged psychological incapacity and establish the requirements of gravity, juridical antecedence, and incurability.” The report of the psychologist ““did not establish how the personality disorder incapacitated” the respondent “from validly assuming the essential obligations of the marriage.” She even testified that respondent “was capable of entering into a marriage except that it would be difficult for her to sustain one.

“Mere difficulty, it must be stressed, is not the incapacity contemplated by law. The Court emphasizes that the burden falls upon petitioner, not just to prove that private respondent suffers from a psychological disorder, but also that such psychological disorder renders her “truly incognitive of the basic marital covenants that concomitantly must be assumed and discharged by the parties to the marriage.”  Psychological incapacity must be more than just a “difficulty,” a “refusal,” or a “neglect” in the performance of some marital obligations.  An unsatisfactory marriage is not a null and void marriage.” 

As the Court held in in Marcos v. Marcos (397 Phil. 840, 851 (2000)): “Article 36 of the Family Code, we stress, is not to be confused with a divorce law that cuts the marital bond at the time the causes therefor manifest themselves.  It refers to a serious psychological illness afflicting a party even before the celebration of the marriage. It is a malady so grave and so permanent as to deprive one of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond one is about to assume. x x x.”

It appears that as far as the Court is concerned that marriage is not just a contact contract.  Now it would take more than a wife saying no to a husband’s advances before it can be annulled.  Where intimacy once defined the term ‘marriage’, the Supreme Court now holds mere capacity to contract as sufficient definition. 


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