Friday, December 16, 2011

Toring v. Toring, August 2010, G.R. No. 165321

FACTS: A and B were husband and wife. B filed a petition for annulment before the RTC. He claimed that A was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage prior to, at the time of, and subsequent to the celebration of their marriage.

Ricardo offered; the psychological evaluation of his expert witness, psychiatrist. Dr Albaran testified A had Narcissistic Personality Disorder that rendered her psychologically incapacitated to fulfill her essential marital obligations based on the information she gathered from her psychological evaluation on B and the couple’s son, C. The doctor did not personally examine A. B alleged that A was an adulteress and a squanderer.

The RTC annulled the marriage. The CA reversed saying that RTC failed to specifically point out the root illness or defect that caused A’s psychological incapacity, and likewise failed to show that the incapacity already existed at the time of celebration of marriage. The CA found that the conclusions from Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation do not appear to have been drawn from well-rounded and fair sources, and dwelt mostly on hearsay statements and rumors. Likewise, the CA found that Ricardo’s allegations on A’s overspending and infidelity do not constitute adequate grounds for declaring the marriage null and void under Article 36 of the Family Code.

: Whether the RTC was correct in declaring the nullity of the marriage. 
: No, the RTC was wrong. CA decision affirmed.

According to Molina case, the definitive guidelines in the interpretation and application of this article are the following:

(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.

(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. Such root cause must be identified as a psychological illness and its incapacitating nature fully explained. 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.

(4) Such incapacity must also be shown to be medically or clinically permanent or incurable. Furthermore, such incapacity must be relevant to the assumption of marriage obligations, not necessarily to those not related to marriage.

(5) Such illness must be grave enough to bring about the disability of the party to assume the essential obligations of marriage. The illness must be shown as downright incapacity or inability, not a refusal, neglect or difficulty, much less ill will.

(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.

(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.

The intent of the law to confine the application of Article 36 of the Family Code to the most serious cases of personality disorders; these are the disorders that result in the utter insensitivity or inability of the afflicted party to give meaning and significance to the marriage he or she contracted.

In the present case and guided by these standards, we find the totality of the petitioner’s evidence to be insufficient to prove that A was psychologically incapacitated to perform her duties as a wife.

Though the law does not require that the allegedly incapacitated spouse be personally examined by a physician or by a psychologist as a condition sine qua non for the declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36. However, it is still essential – although from sources other than the respondent spouse – to show his or her personality profile, or its approximation, at the time of marriage; the root cause of the inability to appreciate the essential obligations of marriage; and the gravity, permanence and incurability of the condition.

In the present case, the only other party outside of the spouses who was ever asked to give statements for purposes of A’s psychological evaluation was C, the spouses’ eldest son who would not have been very reliable as a witness because he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.

Of more serious consequence, fatal to Ricardo’s cause, is the failure of Dr. Albaran’s psychological evaluation to fully explain the details – i.e., the what, how, when, where and since when – of Teresita’s alleged Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Dr. Albaran never explained, too, the incapacitating nature of Teresita’s alleged personality disorder, and how it related to the essential marital obligations that she failed to assume. Neither did the good doctor adequately explain in her psychological evaluation how grave and incurable was A’s psychological disorder.

B failed to discharge the burden of proof to show that TA suffered from psychological incapacity; thus, his petition for annulment of marriage must fail.

We reiterate that irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility, and the like, do not by themselves warrant a finding of psychological incapacity, as the same may only be due to a person’s difficulty, refusal or neglect to undertake the obligations of marriage that is not rooted in some psychological illness that Article 36 of the Family Code addresses.

B also failed to show the adverse integral element and link to A’s allegedly disordered personality. Moreover,B failed to prove that A’s alleged character traits already existed at the inception of their marriage.

 Finally, the root cause of the psychological incapacity needs to be alleged in a petition for annulment under Article 36 of the Family Code. What is not required is the expert opinion to prove the root cause of the psychological incapacity. CA decision affirmed.

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