Totality of evidence in psychological incapacity

YouTube user Pemar Taguinod asked: "How could you possibly conclude that indeed he is incapacitated to comply with the marital obligations in a marriage bond?PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY NEEDED A EXPERT WITNESS TO TESTIFY THAT INDEED THEY WERE INCAPACITATED?PLEASE EXPLAIN."

Project Jurisprudence answers: "If we are correct in understanding the question, you are asking about the probative weight of the testimony of an expert witness.
"There are two ends of the spectrum here. One end says we should disregard expert witness testimonies; we don't want that. The other end says the court's hands should be tied by such testimonies; we also do not want that." For more details, please read on.

The best rule is what is called "totality of evidence," according to Marcos v. Marcos. Psychological incapacity, as a ground for declaring the nullity of a marriage, may be established by the totality of evidence presented. There is no requirement, however, that the respondent should be examined by a physician or a psychologist as a condition sine qua non for such declaration.

The main question in the case of Marcos v. Marcos (G.R. No. 136490, October 19, 2000) was whether the totality of the evidence presented in the present case -- including the testimonies of petitioner, the common children, petitioner's sister and the social worker -- was enough to sustain a finding that respondent was psychologically incapacitated.

The Supreme Court ruled in the negative. Although the Court was sufficiently convinced that respondent failed to provide material support to the family and may have resorted to physical abuse and abandonment, the totality of his acts could not lead to a conclusion of psychological incapacity on his part. There was absolutely no showing that his "defects" were already present at the inception of the marriage or that they are incurable.

Verily, the behavior of respondent can be attributed to the fact that he had lost his job and was not gainfully employed for a period of more than six years. It was during this period that he became intermittently drunk, failed to give material and moral support, and even left the family home.

Thus, his alleged psychological illness was traced only to said period and not to the inception of the marriage. Equally important, there is no evidence showing that his condition is incurable, especially now that he is gainfully employed as a taxi driver.

Article 36 of the Family Code 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. These marital obligations are those provided under Articles 68 to 71, 220, 221 and 225 of the Family Code.

Neither is Article 36 to be equated with legal separation, in which the grounds need not be rooted in psychological incapacity but on physical violence, moral pressure, moral corruption, civil interdiction, drug addiction, habitual alcoholism, sexual infidelity, abandonment and the like. (Article 55) At best, the evidence presented by petitioner refers only to grounds for legal separation, not for declaring a marriage void.

The decision to declare marriage void under Article 36 must be based not solely on the expert opinions but on the totality of evidence adduced in the course of the proceedings. (G.R. No. 218630, January 11, 2018)