Annulment (Nullity of Marriage and Psychological Incapacity)

by | Jun 4, 2018 | Family Law, Annulment & Other Separations

Bride and Groom facing away from each other on a red background.

While Filipinos use the term ‘Annulment’ to refer to all cases where marriages are dissolved, the most common method is actually Nullity of Marriage based on Psychological Incapacity.

I’ll discuss the timeline, cost, and process for the most commonly used ground for Nullity of Marriage (Psychological Incapacity) to give you an understanding of court requirements.

The court process for Annulment can be a long, complicated, and costly process. But despite these, it is often necessary and advisable to go through the process due to its importance with regard to your property, children, and future relationships.

Chapter 1: Before your File

A quill and a scroll to show the preparation needed before filing a case.

There are 3 ways to end a Philippine marriage, but they might not be applicable to your situation.

Read on to figure out what applies to you.

Is Nullity of Marriage the Right Option?

Other than death, there are only 3 ways to legally dissolve a marriage in the Philippines:

Although there are 3 ways for Filipinos to legally end a marriage, most will go through Annulment.

Most cases fall under Annulment or Void Marriages.

Recognition of Foreign Divorce

While the first option is faster, cheaper, and simpler, it only applies when one of the partners was a foreign citizen at the time of the divorce. If not, it cannot be used.

The last two options are applicable when you qualify based on any of the grounds under the Family Code.

While most Filipinos confuse the two and call them both Annulment in everyday speech, they are actually two distinct types with different effects.

An angry wedding couple with a void marriage certificate.

Void marriages include Art 36’s Void Marriage due to psychological incapacity.

Void Marriages (Annulment with Psychological Incapacity)

  • Is when the marriage is void from the start
  • Grounds are from Art 35, 36, 37, 38 and 53 of the Family Code. These include the well-known psychological incapacity, as well as marriages between those less than 18, marriages performed by someone without solemnizing authority, marriages without a license, incestuous marriages, etc.
  • Children born of the marriage become illegitimate unless the ground used is Art 36 (Psychological Incapacity) or Art 53.

Voidable Marriages

  • Is when the marriage starts as valid but can be voided
  • Grounds are from Art 45 of the Family Code. These include marriages where one was over 18 and under 21 when the marriage was solemnized without the consent of a parent or guardian, where either party was of unsound mind, where the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, force, intimidation or undue influence, marriages where either party was physically incapable of consummating the marriage with the other, marriages where either party was afflicted with a sexually-transmissible disease
  • Children born of the marriage are still legitimate

The applicable grounds and whether you have children are big factors in determining which type of case you can file and should be taken in consultation with your lawyer.

Explaining Annulment

For most married Filipinos, declaring a marriage void on the ground of psychological incapacity is the only way to end a marriage.

While similar to divorce in that you can remarry afterwards, it is based on different grounds.

A woman and child being abused.

Psychological incapacity is when one spouse cannot fulfill the requirements of marriage.

For instance, adultery is not a ground of dissolving a marriage.

Living apart – even for many years – is also not a ground.

In additional, irreconcilable differences does not exist in the law.

Art 36’s psychological incapacity is what is most often used.

Psychological incapacity is when one spouse is psychologically incapacitated to comply with his obligations as a spouse. It can manifest as substance abuse and physical abuse, among many others. However, these are not grounds in and of themselves and instead it is the totality of evidence that proves psychological incapacity.

Annulment is a formal court process. It will require witness testimonies and it will require you to go to court at least once. It will require a psychologist to testify on the alleged psychological incapacity.

A courtroom listening to a witness testimony.

Annulment is a court case as are all legal changes to civil status.

You should expect annulment to take at least 2 years.

If contested, it can take longer.

Annulment requires you to be financially prepared.

Big firms may charge a Php 500,000 or more over the course of the case. Smaller firms charge Php 300,000.

This is mainly due to the psychologist’s fee, the legal pleadings and the numerous court visits.

However, if you and your ex-partner can agree on property and children, it will be much faster and more economical.

Grounds for Nullity of Marriage

Psychological incapacity is the most popular ground for a void marriage.

Other grounds are discussed in Art 35, 37, 38 and 53 of the Family Code.

A summary of the other grounds are below. (The complete text of the Family Code should be at referred to for further clarification.)

A couple torn apart as one of them was under 18 at the time of the marriage.

One of the grounds to void a marriage is if one of the spouses was under 18.

Grounds:

  • If you or your spouse was under 18
  • Marriage was performed by solemnizing officer who didn’t have the official capacity to perform the service unless you one of you believed he did
  • Without a valid marriage license although exceptions exist
  • Bigamous marriages
  • If there was mistaken identity
  • Subsequent marriages under Art 53, which deal with recording the judgment of nullity and partition of property and legitime in the Civil Registry for a previous marriage.
  • Psychological incapacity
  • Marriages between ascendants and descendants, brothers and sisters even if illegitimate, and other incestuous situations such as if the child is adopted (Art 37 and 38)

These grounds are legal concepts and come with conditions and exceptions.

Take, for example, the requirement of the marriage license. Although in most cases, a marriage license is indispensable for a valid marriage, the law provides for certain exceptions.

One of them is that it is that no marriage license may be required when one of the parties is on the point of death.

For the exact wording of the law, please see this.

Chapter 2: The Process

The process for annulment.

It’s most likely that psychological incapacity will be the ground used.

I’ll discuss the step-by-step process from filing to successfully receiving the decision.

Infographic discussing the 7 steps to Annulment.

Annulment is a 7 step process.

While the below process is somewhat similar for other void marriages, I focus only on Nullity of Marriage for Psychological Incapacity as it is the most frequently used ground. (And often also the only one applicable).

Step 1: Engage a lawyer

You’ll need to engage a lawyer for annulment.

In cases where child custody and property division are problems, an advocate is essential.

He or she can approach the other side and negotiate on your behalf without emotion to help you reach an agreement.

This in itself goes a long way towards ensuring the case goes smoothly.

Hiring a good lawyer helps in reducing the errors and smoothing the process.

Hire the right lawyer!

In addition, he can ensure that the forms and processes of the court are correctly followed to avoid future problems.

When choosing your lawyer, choose one that you communicate with well.

You will need to tell him everything so that he can prepare and foresee problems.

You will also need to be very clear as to what you want from the case. Set your goals.

What are your prepared to compromise on with regard to property? What can’t you compromise on?

Make sure you can meet the costs of the annulment itself and discuss fees to properly set expectations.

Step 2: Interview with your lawyer and psychologist

You’ll need to be interviewed by the lawyer and your psychologist thoroughly before the Petition is created.

A man and a psychologist undergoing assessment for psychological incapacity.

You’ll need a psychological assessment.

The Petition will be created from based on the information gathered at this stage. The grounds for psychological incapacity will be based on your interview with your psychologist.

This is very important. Annulments have been denied when the psychologist hasn’t personally met with the petitioner.

As the petition is the basis for the rest of the evidence that you present, it is important to get this done prior to its creation.

Step 3: Preparing your Petition

After your interview with your psychologist and lawyer, you will need to approve the final draft of the Petition.

You must correct any inaccuracies to ensure your case doesn’t have an error that could jeopardize its success.

The Petition must state the complete facts constituting the basis for the case.

A completed petition prior to filing.

You’ll need to write a petition before filing at court.

It must also state the names and ages of the common children of the spouses and specify the regime governing their property relations, as well as the properties involved.

The Petition may include an application for a provisional order for spousal support, custody, and support of common children, visitation rights, administration of community or conjugal property, and other similar matters if there not already an adequate written agreement for this between the spouses.

The Petition must be signed by both the Petitioner and the lawyer, and it must be sworn to under oath by the Petitioner.

Step 4: Waiting for the Court

Your Petition will then be filed with your city’s Regional Trial Court and docketed at the branch designated as the Family Court.

The Court will take steps to formally serve summons. The summons and the Petition will be personally served on your spouse.

A man with a clock in front of a courthouse waiting.

You’ll need to wait a bit as the court assigns your petition and arranges other legal requirements with your lawyer.

If your spouse cannot be located, the court summons will be published in a newspaper for two consecutive weeks and sent by mail or other means to his last known address. If he lives in another country, then the process adjusts slightly to accommodate this.

The Court will also request the Public Prosecutor to file an Investigative Report to ensure there is no collusion between spouses.

Step 5: Pre-Trial

After the above Court processes have been successfully hurdled, your case will go through pre-trial.

The lawyer will prepare the pre-trial brief to summarize all your claims and your evidence. Affidavits from your witnesses will also be prepared at this point.

An encircled date on a calendar to show that pre-trial also goes through some issues.

Your lawyer will put together the pre-trial brief.

During pre-trial, the calendar of court hearings will be scheduled.

Although mediation and the admission of facts to reduce to the scope of the trial are typically aspects of pre-trial in other kinds of cases, the scope of these is restricted in cases for annulment.

Step 6: Going Through Trial

Trial is the longest stage.

During trial, your lawyer will be called to present your case according to the calendar of court hearings set during pre-trial.

Testimony is heard by the judge.

The trial takes some time!

Evidence will be presented and your witnesses will be questioned by the Court. You yourself will ideally be a witness, together with others who can testify to the facts of your marriage, as well as the psychologist who prepared the report.

This part takes multiple hearings and will also involve a number of written submissions to the court.

Step 7: Receiving the Decision

Assuming a favorable decision is received, can thereafter be submitted to the civil registrar so that your marital status can be amended. This dissolves the marital bond for good.

The judge will issue a decision granting your annulment.

Finally done!

Congratulations!

Your annulment is complete!

You can now remarry, immigrate as a fiancée abroad, and buy property without worrying that your former partner has a claim.

26 Comments

  1. Maris

    Honestly.i read many times and think it over and over.Only God can help me about my case..Annulment of marriages and legal separation must be..But financially i am not capable..I’am a martyr,only one who survived for my 4 children.we are long years separated because he is Drug addict and alcoholism.and Narcissitic personality Disorder/ irresponsible.no respects to me and my children,no marital support as a father.”psychological incapacity”..all my children was on my custody since i go abroad..My priorities was the education and safeness of my children and good future!How our law help for the case like me?so unfair .please help us! to become free.. thank you!

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Will send you an email, Maris.

      Reply
  2. manny

    How about those separated without kids and no assets to argue about? Hindi ba puedeng madali at least pag ganito ang case? We both suffer and not able to move with our lives because of this law.

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      I will send you an email.

      Reply
      • Aleic

        How about those separated without kids and no assets to argue about? Pwede bang madali at least pag ganito ang case? We both suffer and not able to move with our lives because of this law.

      • Lawyers in the Philippines

        Hi Aleic:

        If there are no kids and no assets, there may be less opposition from your spouse.

        It would still require going through the annulment process however.

    • Liza

      Im living with someone now who is living seperately from his wife, who at the time of the marriage has cheated with him and had a kid with another man. Can this be used as grounds for annulment, and if so how much will be the cost.

      Reply
      • Lawyers in the Philippines

        Sent you an email.

  3. jurevey

    I am separated for more than a year now from my husband. We mostly fight because of his insecurities and self pity.He cant provide me his physical obligations and because of that we fight intensely. He usually throw gossips about me with his friends saying i have a relationship with another man. Im always emotionally unprepared that’s why its giving me emotional tortures that’s why i gathered my strength and send him home. I dont have the financial capacity to handle the process, can you please help me???

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi:

      If you want to separate from your spouse formally so that you can remarry, annulment is certainly the correct option.

      It is a 2-3 year process as the courts are often very clogged.

      Government services such as the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) can help cut down on cost but they only serve those who have an monthly income of less than P14,000 if in Metro Manila. You might want to try this option first.

      Reply
  4. James

    What about if marriage was for two weeks and husband returned to America and never returned and no contact. Basically abandoned the new wife that he tricked into marrying. She has checked the govt authority and it was recorded. Can she get it expunged some way for less

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent you an email.

      Reply
  5. Ronel

    How about those seperated more than 18yrs without kids and no assete, no argue about? Madali bang madali atleast ganito ang case?

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Unfortunately, even a separation of these many years is not a ground for annulment.

      Annulment is solely limited to the grounds above.

      Reply
  6. Ten

    What if the ex husband is living with his new partner for 12 years and they already have 2 kids. I was abandoned for almost 13 years and receives no financial support for our daughter. I just turned 18 when we got married and he was 19. My dad just faxed a consent since he’s ik abroad. We just need to be married because we will be expelled from church. Can this be grounds for annulment as it seems that we were forced?

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent you an email.

      Reply
  7. Elsa

    How much it usually cost for the annulment and year it takes? what’s the possibility will be the reason for the annulment won’t be granted? thank you.

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent an email.

      Reply
  8. Jozienda Villamar

    Were been separated for 8 years.and he has a new family now with 2 kids now.we have 3 kids and stayed with his parents.
    Nambubugbog sya..kaya ko sya iniwanan.
    Ikinasal kame nong 21 years old ako.ayaw ng magulang ko sa kanya.so partido lang nya ang naron.
    Hindi ko kaya ung presyo ng annulment natin sa pinas.paano po gagawin ko

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Annulment is the only way to end a marriage between 2 Filipinos.

      You may wish to try to work with the PAO. Note that the PAO only caters to those with a monthly income lower than P14,000 in MM.

      Reply
  9. Anna

    I am married with American man and we have a baby on a way. We married in the Philippines for 3 months now. We decided to have an annulment or divorce due to we apart to it’s other and could not support our needs and i have a big share in terms of expenses. If we undergo for annulment, how fast will be the annulment approve?

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent you an email.

      Reply
  10. mercy geronimo

    My x husband [ husband] been jailed since 2017 of august or september . I found this when i was working abroad. 8 yars na po kami hiwalay at nung nagsasama pa kami everyday po kami nagaaway , everyday at habit nya na po ang uminom na madalas nauuwi kami sa walang pambili ng pagkain at naasa na lang sa biyenan ko po. ano po bang grounds ang pwede dito. at di ko rin kakayanin ang annulment fee dito sa pinas ,, sa kasalukuyan wala po ako work. please payuhan mo po ako. salamat

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Have you tried to work with the PAO?

      The PAO provides free legal services to those with income of Php 14,000 in Metro Manila.

      They may be able to help you.

      Reply
  11. Olive

    Hi, 4 years na kaming hiwalay ng asawa ko – no support, no communication. We have 2 kids. Gusto ko na rin po siya mawala sa beneficiaries ko. Paano po yung pwedeng solution? Pwede ko po bang ifile na ng annulment?
    Paano po ba yung process ng annulment? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent an email.

      Reply

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