VALERIO E. KALAW, Petitioner,
ELENA FERNANDEZ, Respondent.
G.R. No. 166357 January 14, 2015
Read the 2011 Kalaw v. Fernandez case digest HERE.
PONENTE: Bersamin, J.
TOPIC: Psychological incapacity, Declaration of Nullity of Marriage
In the case at bar, Kalaw presented the testimonies of two supposed expert witnesses who concluded that respondent is psychologically incapacitated. Petitioner’s experts heavily relied on petitioner’s allegations of respondent’s constant mahjong sessions, visits to the beauty parlor, going out with friends, adultery, and neglect of their children. Petitioner’s experts opined that respondent’s alleged habits, when performed constantly to the detriment of quality and quantity of time devoted to her duties as mother and wife, constitute a psychological incapacity in the form of NPD.
However, the Supreme Court in its September 19, 2011 decision dismissed the complaint for declaration of nullity of the marriage on the ground that there was no factual basis for the conclusion of psychological incapacity.
Whether or not the marriage was void on the ground of psychological incapacity.
YES. The Court in granting the Motion for Reconsideration held that Fernandez was indeed psychologically incapacitated as they relaxed the previously set forth guidelines with regard to this case.
Note: Molina guidelines were not abandoned, expert opinions were just given much respect in this case.
Guidelines too rigid, thus relaxed IN THIS CASE
The Court held that the guidelines set in the case of Republic v. CA have turned out to be rigid, such that their application to every instance practically condemned the petitions for declaration of nullity to the fate of certain rejection. But Article 36 of the Family Code must not be so strictly and too literally read and applied given the clear intendment of the drafters to adopt its enacted version of “less specificity” obviously to enable “some resiliency in its application.” Instead, every court should approach the issue of nullity “not on the basis of a priori assumptions, predilections or generalizations, but according to its own facts” in recognition of the verity that no case would be on “all fours” with the next one in the field of psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage; hence, every “trial judge must take pains in examining the factual milieu and the appellate court must, as much as possible, avoid substituting its own judgment for that of the trial court.
In the task of ascertaining the presence of psychological incapacity as a ground for the nullity of marriage, the courts, which are concededly not endowed with expertise in the field of psychology, must of necessity rely on the opinions of experts in order to inform themselves on the matter, and thus enable themselves to arrive at an intelligent and judicious judgment. Indeed, the conditions for the malady of being grave, antecedent and incurable demand the in-depth diagnosis by experts.
Personal examination by party not required; totality of evidence must be considered
We have to stress that the fulfillment of the constitutional mandate for the State to protect marriage as an inviolable social institution only relates to a valid marriage. No protection can be accorded to a marriage that is null and void
ab initio, because such a marriage has no legal existence.
There is no requirement for one to be declared psychologically incapacitated to be personally examined by a physician, because what is important is the presence of evidence that adequately establishes the party’s psychological incapacity. Hence, “if the totality of evidence presented is enough to sustain a finding of psychological incapacity, then actual medical examination of the person concerned need not be resorted to.”
Verily, the totality of the evidence must show a link, medical or the like, between the acts that manifest psychological incapacity and the psychological disorder itself. If other evidence showing that a certain condition could possibly result from an assumed state of facts existed in the record, the expert opinion should be admissible and be weighed as an aid for the court in interpreting such other evidence on the causation.
Indeed, an expert opinion on psychological incapacity should be considered as conjectural or speculative and without any probative value only in the absence of other evidence to establish causation. The expert’s findings under such circumstances would not constitute hearsay that would justify their exclusion as evidence.
Expert opinion considered as decisive evidence as to psychological and emotional temperaments
The findings and evaluation by the RTC as the trial court deserved credence because it was in the better position to view and examine the demeanor of the witnesses while they were testifying. The position and role of the trial judge in the appreciation of the evidence showing the psychological incapacity were not to be downplayed but should be accorded due importance and respect.
The Court considered it improper and unwarranted to give to such expert opinions a merely generalized consideration and treatment, least of all to dismiss their value as inadequate basis for the declaration of the nullity of the marriage. Instead, we hold that said experts sufficiently and competently described the psychological incapacity of the respondent within the standards of Article 36 of the Family Code. We uphold the conclusions reached by the two expert witnesses because they were largely drawn from the case records and affidavits, and should not anymore be disputed after the RTC itself had accepted the veracity of the petitioner’s factual premises.
The Court also held that the courts must accord weight to expert testimony on the psychological and mental state of the parties in cases for the declaration of the nullity of marriages, for by the very nature of Article 36 of the Family Code the courts, “despite having the primary task and burden of decision-making, must not discount but, instead, must consider as decisive evidence the expert opinion on the psychological and mental temperaments of the parties.”
Willfully exposing children to gambling constitutes neglect of parental duties
The frequency of the respondent’s mahjong playing should not have delimited our determination of the presence or absence of psychological incapacity. Instead, the determinant should be her obvious failure to fully appreciate the duties and responsibilities of parenthood at the time she made her marital vows. Had she fully appreciated such duties and responsibilities, she would have known that bringing along her children of very tender ages to her mahjong sessions would expose them to a culture of gambling and other vices that would erode their moral fiber. Nonetheless, the long-term effects of the respondent’s obsessive mahjong playing surely impacted on her family life, particularly on her very young children.
The fact that the respondent brought her children with her to her mahjong sessions did not only point to her neglect of parental duties, but also manifested her tendency to expose them to a culture of gambling. Her willfully exposing her children to the culture of gambling on every occasion of her mahjong sessions was a very grave and serious act of subordinating their needs for parenting to the gratification of her own personal and escapist desires.
The respondent revealed her wanton disregard for her children’s moral and mental development. This disregard violated her duty as a parent to safeguard and protect her children.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Reconsideration; REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the decision promulgated on September 19, 2011; and REINSTATES the decision rendered by the Regional Trial Court declaring the marriage between the petitioner and the respondent on November 4, 1976 as NULL AND VOID AB JN/TIO due to the psychological incapacity of the parties pursuant to Article 36 of the Family Code.
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