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Annulment distinguished from Nullity of Marriage

By: Atty. Lifrendo M. Gonzales

 

Parties who enter into a marriage are presumed to have done so legally which renders their marriage binding and valid and may not be presumed by the parties to be otherwise simply because of their personal belief that a ground for its invalidity exists. Such ground must first and foremost be determined and ruled upon by a competent court exercising jurisdiction in order to legally sever the marital ties between the parties.

When a marriage is believed to be null and void from the beginning depending on the grounds used, the action filed in Court is a Petition for the Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Marriage and not Annulment as the two actions are entirely different with each other not only on the grounds but also with the legal effects thereto.

The grounds for this petition are enumerated in the Family Code of the Philippines like the lack of the essential and formal requisites of Marriage such as no legal capacity to enter into marriage, those marriages which are considered as against public policy such as incestuous and bigamous marriages, those which did not conform to the requirement set forth by the Family Code and those marriages where one or both parties is psychologically incapacitated to perform the marital obligations thereto.

A marriage declared by the court as null and void connotes that the marriage entered into by the parties is inexistent as if no marriage ever took place between them.

A voidable marriage on the hand is filed through a petition of Annulment before the court of competent jurisdiction and is a marriage which enjoys the presumption of validity until a declared as annulled.Articles 45 and 46 of the Family Code enumerate the grounds thereof. Annulment connotes that a contract is valid and existing but was only cancelled or annulled. Therefore, the grounds for void marriages cannot be used in voidable marriages as the latter presupposes that there was no existing marriage hence there is nothing to be annulled.

Furthermore, a voidable marriage can only be filed within the prescriptive period set forth by the Family Code. If for example the grounds used for the Petition for the Annulment of Marriage is Fraud, Vitiated Consent, Incapability to Consummate or Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the prescriptive period thereof is five (5) years from the discovery of Fraud, Five (5) years from the time the intimidation, undue influence or force has disappeared, or within 5 years after the marriage ceremony in cases of Incapability to consummate or when the ground is based on Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

The grounds for void marriages on the other hand do not prescribe. Hence, regardless of the ground used, the party seeking the nullity of the marriage may do so even beyond five (5) years.


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