Saturday, February 25, 2012

Garcia vs. Recio [366 SCRA 437]

Facts: Petitioner filed a Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage in the court a quo, on the ground of bigamy alleging respondent was not legally capacitated to marry her on January 12, 1994 because of his prior subsisting marriage to Editha Samson, an Australian citizen. Respondent claimed that petitioner knew of his prior marriage and its subsequent dissolution. He had obtained a divorce decree as proof of his legal capacity to marry petitioner in 1994. 

While the suit for the declaration of nullity was still pending, respondent, who had become a naturalized Australian citizen in 1992, secured a divorce decree in Sydney, Australia for the dissolution of his marriage with petitioner on the ground that “the marriage had irretrievably broken down.” This was recognized by the trial court in rendering its assailed decision that deemed the marriage between respondent and petitioner ended not on the basis of respondent’s alleged lack of legal capacity to remarry but on the basis of the divorce decree (Australian divorce) obtained by respondent. 

Petitioner argues that the divorce decree may only be given recognition in this jurisdiction upon proof of existence of (1) the foreign law allowing absolute divorce, and (2) the alleged divorce decree itself. 

Issues: 
(1) Whether or not the divorce between respondent and Editha Samson was proven; and 

(2) Whether or not respondent was proven to be legally capacitated to marry petitioner. 

Held: 
(1) Yes. The divorce decree has to be admitted in evidence with the registration requirements under Articles 11, 13 and 52 of the Family Code in order to prove the divorce as a fact and prove it’s conformity to the foreign law allowing it for our courts cannot take judicial notice of foreign laws. However, compliance with the registration requirements is no longer binding to respondent for he has acquired Australian Citizenship and therefore, he is no longer bound by Philippine personal laws. Respondent submitted the divorce decree and was rendered admissible by the trial court as a written act of the Family Court of Sydney, Autralia and accorded weight by the judge. 

(2) No. The court held that respondent’s presentation of a decree nisi or an interlocutory decree-a conditional or provisional judgment of divorce showed that the divorce obtained may have been restricted; it did not absolutely establish his legal capacity to remarry according to national law. Respondent also failed to submit a Certificate of Legal Capacity together with the application for a marriage license required by Article 21 of the Family Code which would have been admitted as a prima facie evidence of his legal capacity to marry. The Court finds no absolute evidence that proves that respondent, who was then a naturalized Australian citizen, was legally capacitated to marry petitioner on January 12, 1994. 

Case remanded

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