Is Bigamy ground for Annulment?

by | Jul 17, 2019 | Family Law, Annulment & Other Separations

If your spouse was already married when he married you, then you are in a bigamous marriage.

A bigamous marriage is void.

A bigamous marriage can be ended by going to court and presenting proof that your spouse was already married at the time of your marriage.

Below, I explain what a bigamous marriage is, describe the steps to end it, and answer some commonly asked questions.

What is bigamy?

“Bigamy is two rites that make a wrong.” – Jacob Bruade

Bigamy is entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another.[1]

The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines[2] considers Bigamy a crime.

The Family Code of the Philippines[3] states that bigamous marriages are void from the beginning.

Additionally, the Supreme Court declared in Niñal vs. Bayadog [4] that our civil laws, past or present, absolutely prohibited the concurrence of multiple marriages by the same person during the same period. Any marriage subsequently contracted during the lifetime of the first spouse shall be illegal and void.

However, you must still go to court to legally end a bigamous marriage even through the marriage is void.

Only courts have the power to declare a marriage void.

In this article, I focus on how to end such a marriage. I do not discuss criminal cases for bigamy here as this is a separate and involved topic.

How can you check if you are in a bigamous marriage?

If you want to confirm whether or not you are in a bigamous marriage, you should obtain your spouse’s Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The CENOMAR is a certification stating that a person has not contracted any marriage. It is also called a certificate of No Record of Marriage or Certificate of Singleness.[5]

The CENOMAR lists all the marriages under the name of a person.

From there, you can now countercheck whether or not he was already married at the time of your marriage.

You can order a CENOMAR in person or online and have it delivered to you.

Personal application

  • Go to the nearest PSA office.
  • Bring two (2) ID’s and money for the fees.
  • Fill up the form and include the information of the person you are checking.
  • Wait a day or two and pick up the form.
  • Note that only the court, spouse, children, parents or guardian can obtain the CENOMAR. This widens to the nearest kin if deceased.[6]

Online Application

  • Go to the PSA website.
  • Fill up the online application.
  • Note that you will only be able to receive the delivery if you are the spouse, child, parent or guardian of the person involved. An SPA can also grant you authority to obtain the document.
  • This takes about a week and currently costs ₱330.00

Who can file for Annulment based on Bigamy?

If your spouse’s CENOMAR shows he was already married at the time of your marriage, then your marriage is void.

You may file for annulment based on bigamy if you are either the husband or the wife. You can file anytime during your lifetime.

You may also file if you are an heir and the parties are deceased.

Where can you file an Annulment case?

You must file an annulment case in the Family Court of the province or city where you or your spouse have resided at least six months prior to the date of filing. [7]

If your spouse is not a resident of the Philippines, the case can be filed in the Philippine city or municipality your spouse may be found.

It is best to comply with the laws on where to file your case.

If you file in a city you do not reside in, the court may require you to refile your case. This costs you additional time and money.

What is the process of filing for Annulment?

First, you’ll need to work with your lawyer to create your petition.

He will need some general information and a narration as to why the marriage failed. He will need proof and documentation. In addition, he may want to attach your psychological assessment and facts from your witnesses. All this will go into the petition, which is why it often takes time to prepare.

After the petition is complete your lawyer will file it in court.

Then, he will comply with the other legal requirements so that the case can proceed to trial.

Trial includes your testimony, the psychologist’s testimony and those of your witnesses.

The court then deliberates on the case and releases a decision.

 

What are the effects of filing an Annulment based on Bigamy?

There are a few effects to filing a case based on annulment:

  • Legal end of marriage
  • Property division
  • Children’s custody and status

Let’s discuss this one by one.

 

Legal End of Marriage

A successful annulment means that your marriage has legally ended.

The practical effects to this are:

  • You may use your maiden name on all documents, including your passport.
  • Your civil status is single, which may be needed for fiance visa purposes and remarriage.
  • Your husband will no longer have any spousal rights with regards to you.

Many people believe if the marriage was bigamous there is an automatic end to the marriage.

They say they no longer need to go to court.

This is incorrect.

Only the court can legally end the marriage.

Without court, you will remain married.

 

Property Division

Annulment means that your spouse no longer has a right to your property.

Furthermore, if your annulment was due to bigamy, there is a distinction between innocent and guilty parties.

If the court declares one party guilty, his share will be given to his children.

If there are no children of that marriage, his share will be given to his children of the previous marriage.

If there are no children of the previous marriage, his share will be given to the innocent spouse of the previous marriage. [ Art 143, Family Code]

Otherwise, your conjugal property will be divided between you.

Property rights are a major reason many go through Annulment.

A successful annulment means that your spouse has no share in any property you have. It also means that he cannot inherit from you. More practically, he no longer needs to co-sign for any mortgages or bank loans for property and his name no longer appears on the title.

Some people say that their spouse should no longer have any say in their property since they have already been separated for many years, because the marriage was void, because they didn’t contribute any money to buying the propert, or some other reason or another.

No reasons are valid.

If you are legally married, your spouse has a share in your property.

Children’s Custody and Status

When a marriage is ended based on bigamy, it has the following effects on children:

  • Children become illegitimate [GR 105619, Dec 1995]
  • Children’s custody and support are ironed out by the court.

Many don’t understand the legal impact of a child being legitimate or illegitimate.

Among the most important are inheritance rights. A legitimate child will receive a larger inheritance than an illegitimate child in most situations.

Another issue that annulment tackles is the custody and support of the children.

The court decides who the children live with in case you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement.

The court decides in the best interest of the child, taking into account all considerations. [G.R. 115640, Mar 1995] It also define visitation rights for the parent without custody. [Art 43, Family Code of the Philippines]

What do you do after the Court Decision?

What you do after the court decision depends on what the court decision is.

  • File the Court Order with the PSA if the Courts grants the annulment.
  • Refile if the case was dismissed. However, not that you cannot refile if the case was denied on its merits.

Let me explain a little bit.

Say that your annulment has been granted.

The information must be reported to the PSA for them to make the necessary changes.

For the PSA to do this, the court decision must be registered with the PSA. Otherwise, it will not take effect and a subsequent marriage would still be void. [Art 52 & Art 53, Family Code of the Philippines]

Registering with the PSA is a detailed and confusing process. However, it can be done on your own with sufficient time and effort.

Now – what do you do when your case is denied?

In some situations, the case can be refiled or appealed.

However, it cannot be refiled when a case is denied on its merits.

When a case is denied on its merits, the court has decided that the grounds are insufficient and the petition has no value.

In such a situation, the annulment is not granted and you remain married.

Why are Annulments denied?

Around 6% of annulments are denied because the case fails to prove the claims of the petition.

It could be that the proof presented is weak.

It could also be that the case was incompletely laid out. Perhaps the petition missed a crucial argument [G.R. No. 141528, Oct 31, 2006] or that it contradicted a later allegation. It could mean insufficient proof was given.

In some situations, there are factors beyond anyone’s control. This may be as extremely high standards of evidence by the court.

Remember –

If your case was denied on its merits, then it cannot be refiled again.

 

Summary

If you married someone already married, you must still go to court to end the marriage and marry again.

It may take 2-3 years for an annulment based on the grounds of bigamy if it is uncontested and proof is sufficient.

An annulment based on bigamy means that:

  • Your children will be illegitimate
  • The Court will help determine custody and support of the children
  • The Court will separate your properties so that your spouse no longer has any claim to your property.
  • You can remarry and use your maiden name in all documents, including your passport.

Be careful when you go through the annulment process.

Stay away from fixers promising “quickie” annulments.

An annulment can be invalidated, dismissed or denied when shortcuts are taken.

Much of the work will be done by your lawyer so it is important to pick someone dependable.

 

 

Atty. Francesco C. Britanico

[1] Merriam-Webster website. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigamy.

[2] Article 349.

[3] Article 35.

[4] G.R. No. 133778, 14 March 2000.

[5] Philippine Statistics Authority Website. Retrieved from https://psa.gov.ph/civilregistration/requesting-civil-registry-document/cenomar.

[6] PSA Office Memorandum No. 2017-050.

[7] A.M. No. 02-11-10-SC, Sec. 4

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