If you’ve come to that point in your relationship where the only possible solution to your problems is to end your marriage, you might find that under Philippine laws, it’s not that simple. The Philippines does not have a divorce law because both our Constitution and laws value the validity of marriage and unity of the family. However, this does not mean you will be forced to stay married to your husband.

Article 36 of our Family Code provides for the declaration of nullity of marriages on the ground of psychological incapacity. Basically, our law states that when one of the spouses is psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage, the marriage shall be declared void.


WHAT IS PSYCHOLOGICAL INCAPACITY?

An essential requirement is that your husband must be proven to have been psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential obligations of marriage at the time you exchanged vows. It does not matter that such incapacity only became apparent during your marriage--as long as it can be proven that he had a personality disorder before you were married. Very specific conditions are required regarding psychological incapacity:

1. It’s psychological; not merely physical. An expert must medically identify and sufficiently prove the personality disorder and that it is permanent and incurable. This means that no amount of psychotherapy could change the spouse who has a disorder.

2. It must be grave enough to bring about the absolute disability of the spouse to assume the essential obligations of marriage (to live together, observe mutual love, respect, and fidelity, and render mutual help and support).


HOW DO I PROVE IT?

You must show that he is not just lazy but is hampered by a psychological disorder, which deters him from being responsible enough to support you and your children. For example, is he depending on you for everything when it comes to your family? Is he having trouble holding on to a job? Why is he content with that? Does he have vices (for example, drinking or smoking)? There must be a psychological reason behind these.

1. Find a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Our Courts place great weight on the testimony of an expert witness who will conduct interviews and analyze several factors. He will study your husband’s childhood and upbringing, your courtship, your relationship before marriage, and your marriage. He will analyze if your husband is incapable of complying with the essential marital obligations and whether such an incapacity existed at the time of your marriage.

2. Be prepared.

You will be asked to recount how he was before you were married and his overall attitude during your marriage. Was your husband unemployed then, or did he have a steady job? Does he express regret over his lack of support for your family? Has he expressed a desire to change for the better?


Remember that once an annulment has been granted, it cannot be undone. So before filing your petition, discern whether there is truly no hope for reconciliation between the two of you.


(First published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, Good Family, Family Law section as “Separate Ways” in April 2010; adapted for use in Female Network; screencap from Kramer vs. Kramer courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

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