Compromise agreement on sharing of conjugal property if wife is guilty of adultery

What if the spouse is convicted of adultery? What is the status of this spouse's right to share conjugal properties? Is compromise agreement equivalent to voluntary separation of properties?

In the Maquilan Case, G.R. No. 155409, there was a blissful married life of the spouses, but their once sugar coated romance turned sour when the man discovered that the wife was committing adultery. He sued her and the paramour for adultery where they were convicted.

Thereafter, he filed a complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity with Dissolution and Liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains and damages. They, however, entered into a Compromise Agreement where they separated and divided their properties. Judgment was rendered approving the compromise agreement but later on he filed a motion to repudiate the Compromise Agreement as he was not properly advised by his lawyer. It was denied. In a petition for Certiorari before the Court of Appeals, he contended the following:

[1] That it was made within the cooling-off period, and;
[2] That the proceedings were conducted without the participation of the Solicitor General.
The Court of Appeals dismissed the Petition, ruling that conviction for adultery did not, automatically by itself, disqualify her from sharing in the conjugal property, that the cooling-off period under Article 58 has no bearing and that the presence of the OSG is not indispensable to the execution and validity of the Compromise Agreement since the propose of his presence is to curtail any collusion between the parties and to see to it that evidence is not fabricated.

The issue in this case involves the right to share despite conviction for adultery.

The contention that the Compromise Agreement is tantamount to a circumvention of the law prohibiting the guilty spouse from sharing in the conjugal properties is misplaced. Existing law and jurisprudence do not impose such disqualification.

Under Article 134 of the Family Code, separation of property may be effected voluntarily or for sufficient cause, subject to judicial approval. The questioned Compromise Agreement which was judicially approved is exactly such a separation of property allowed under the law. This conclusion holds true even if the proceeding for the declaration of nullity of marriage was still pending. This voluntary separation of property is subject to the right of all creditors of the conjugal partnership of gain and other person with pecuniary interest pursuant to Article 136 of the Family Code.