Long distance romance

This is another case of a marriage sought to be declared void because of the psychological incapacity of a spouse under Article 36 of the Family Code. The issue here involves the incompatibility and irreconcilable cultural differences of the parties because one of them is a foreigner. Can such differences and incompatibility be equated with psychological incapacity? This is the question raised and answered in this case of Nida and Dino.

Nida is a Filipina who met Dino, an Italian national, in a “chat room” on the internet. They soon became “chat-mates” and began exchanging letters that drew them emotionally closer to each other. Dino was very sweet, kind, jolly and romantic. He made Nida feel that he cared for her even if they were apart. He would always send her sweet messages and funny jokes on important occasions even though Nida was in the Philippines and Dino lived in Italy. Six months after their first internet meeting, Dino proposed marriage and one year later he flew in from Italy and tied the knot with Nida. Then soon after the wedding Dino returned to Italy, followed by Nida a month later. The couple lived together in Italy.

During their marriage Dino was working and giving money to Nida who, however, always complained that it was not enough. Nida also found out that Dino was unhygienic and was not circumcised. He was also a drug dependent and addicted to video games. During work days and even during days of rest, he would play video games and appeared to be immature, irresponsible and too dependent on his mother. Nida said that there was never quality time he spent with her, the kind of time a responsible husband would spend with his wife. So after one year and three months, Nida left Dino and flew back into the country.

Then five months later, Nida filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for declaration of nullity of her marriage to Dino. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing the Republic, opposed the petition. In support of her petition, Nida testified and narrated in a judicial affidavit everything that happened to them as above set forth. Also presented was Dr. Naty Bondoc, a clinical psychologist, who found Dino to be suffering from a “Dependent Personality Disorder with underlying Anti-Social Trait” based on her interview of Nida and not of Dino. The mother of Nida also testified, corroborating Nida’s testimony.

After hearing the case, the RTC rendered a decision denying Nida’s petition because she was not able to completely discharge her burden of overcoming the legal presumption of validity and continuance of her marriage to Dino. This decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) which ruled that Nida’s depiction of Dino as irresponsible, childish, overly dependent on his mother, addicted to video games and drugs, lazy, had poor hygiene and unwillingness to assume the essential marital obligation, are not enough. Dr. Bondoc’s findings cannot also be relied upon as she did not administer psychological tests on Dino himself.

These rulings of the RTC and the CA were affirmed by the Supreme Court (SC). The SC said that the issue of whether or not psychological incapacity exists in a given case calling for the declaration of nullity of a marriage depends crucially on the facts of the case more than in any field of law. Such factual issue is beyond the province of this court to review. It is not the function of this court to analyze and weigh all over again the evidence or premises supportive of such factual determination of the trial court as affirmed by the CA. They are binding on this Court, save for the most compelling and cogent reasons.

Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the FC, must be characterized by (a) gravity; (b) judicial antecedence and (c) incurability. The incapacity must be grave or serious such that the party would be incapable of carrying out the ordinary duties required in marriage. It must be rooted in the history of the party antedating the marriage, although the manifestations may emerge only after marriage. And it must be incurable or, even if it be otherwise, the cure would be beyond the means of the party involved. And the burden of proving psychological incapacity must be on Nida, the spouse who wants the marriage declared void. In this case Nida failed to prove her petition. So the RTC and the CA were correct in dismissing her petition (Espina Dan vs. Dan, G.R. 209031, April 16, 2018).

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