Psychological Incapacity as a Ground to Nullify a Marriage.

What is psychological incapacity?

Psychological incapacity is one of the grounds for declaring a marriage null/void/nonexistent (not annulled).

By definition, psychological incapacity, as a ground to nullify a marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code, should refer to no less than a mental – not merely 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 which, as so expressed in Article 68 of the Family Code, among others, include their mutual obligations to live together, observe love, respect and fidelity and render help and support.[1]

What are the essential characteristics of psychological incapacity which must be proved in order for a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage to be granted?

In Santos v. Court of Appeals[2], the Supreme Court (SC) first declared the characteristics of psychological incapacity as follows:

(a) Gravity - the incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage;


(b) Juridical antecedence - it must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the overt manifestations may emerge only after the marriage; and


(c) Incurability - it must be incurable or, even if it were otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved.

What are some cases ruled by the Supreme Court as constituting psychological incapacity?

In Antonio v. Reyes[3], the wife was found to be a pathological liar. The SC held that, “Respondent has that propensity for telling lies about almost anything, be it her occupation, her state of health, her singing abilities, her income, etc. She has this fantastic ability to invent and fabricate stories and personalities. She practically lived in a world of make believe making her therefore not in a position to give meaning and significance to her marriage to petitioner. In persistently and constantly lying to petitioner, respondent undermined the basic tenets of relationship between spouses that is based on love, trust and respect.” Further, the Court said that a person unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality would similarly be unable to comprehend the legal nature of the marital bond.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Javier[4], the husband was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with tendencies toward sadism. The husband was found to have had a "grandiose self-existence" which proceeded from his ideas of preference towards ideal love and ideal marriage. He lacked empathy causing him to disregard and ignore the feelings of his wife. The Court also held that he formed unrealistic values and standards on his own marriage, and proposed unconventional sexual practices. When his wife would disagree with his ideals, he would not only quarrel with her but would also inflict harm on her. Other manifestations include excessive love for himself, self-entitlement, immaturity, and self-centeredness.

Conversely, what are some cases which do not equate to psychological incapacity?

The wife’s emotional immaturity and irresponsibility in Republic of the Philippines v. De Gracia[5] did not constitute psychological incapacity because it was not shown that these acts are manifestations of a disordered personality which make her completely unable to discharge the essential marital obligations of the marital state, not merely due to her youth, immaturity or sexual promiscuity. The SC reiterated that psychological incapacity refers only to the most serious cases of personality disorders clearly demonstrative of an utter insensitivity or inability to give meaning and significance to the marriage.

The SC in Republic of the Philippines v. Pangasinan[6] ruled that mere showing of "irreconcilable differences" and "conflicting personalities" does not constitute psychological incapacity nor does failure of the parties to meet their responsibilities and duties as married persons. Further, psychological incapacity must be more than just a "difficulty," "refusal" or "neglect" in the performance of some marital obligations; it is essential that the concerned party was incapable of doing so, due to some psychological illness existing at the time of the celebration of the marriage.



[1] Republic of the Philippines v. De Gracia, G.R. No. 171557, February 12, 2014. [2] G.R. No. 112019, January 4, 1995. [3] G.R. NO. 155800, March 10, 2006.

[4] G.R. No. 210518, April 18, 2018. [5] Supra, note 1. [6] G.R. No. 214077, August 10, 2016.

Recent Posts

See All

Legal Separation in the Philippines.

Is legal separation allowed in the Philippines? Yes, legal separation is allowed in the Philippines. The grounds, defenses, and effects of legal separation are provided for in the Family Code, particu

©2020 Ariñas Law Office | info@arinaslaw.com | 02-8395-9745

4th Floor, G & A Building, 2303 Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati City