Proof necessary for psychological incapacity

In Hannamer C. Pugoy-Solidum v. Republic of the Philippines (G.R. No. 213954 promulgated on 20 April 2022), petitioner Hannamer testified on facts that showed respondent’s psychological incapacity.

The finding that respondent Grant Solidum was indeed psychologically incapacitated was proven by her psychiatrist.

Essentially, Hannamer testified that after high school, she and Grant lived together, where she was the breadwinner.

Respondent was jobless who relied solely on her and his older brother for support.  After Hannamer gave birth, she and respondent got married upon the prodding of her mother.

She spent for everything, from the expenses of the marriage to their child’s baptism.

Living expenses were shouldered by Hannamer’s mother as Grant was unemployed.  Eventually, the couple’s relationship deteriorated.  They separated.

Grant neither visited their child nor gave any financial support.

This led Hannamer to file a petition for declaration of nullity of her marriage to Grant with the court.

After receiving the testimonies of petitioner, the psychiatrist — as the expert testimony, and petitioner’s mom, the trial court granted the petition.

It declared the couple’s marriage as null and void. The State, through the Solicitor-General however, did not agree with the court.

It appealed the case to the Court of Appeals. It contended that petitioner was not able to prove respondent’s psychological incapacity.

The Solicitor-General’s contention was affirmed by the appellate court. It reversed the ruling of the trial court.

Petitioner Hannamer elevated the issue to the Supreme Court.  She stood by her argument that she duly proved respondent’s psychological incapacity.

Sadly, the Supreme Court did not side with her.  Instead, it decreed,  ‘with the recent promulgation of Tan-Andal v. Andal, we recognized and addressed the stringent application of the Molina guidelines which turned out to be antithetical to the way  the concept of psychological incapacity was created.

In order to veer away from its misapplication, Tan-Andal presents a nuanced interpretation of what constitutes psychological incapacity.

Tan-Andal … enunciates that psychological incapacity is not a mental incapacity nor a personality disorder that must be proven through an expert witness.

Likewise, juricial antecedence of psychological incapacity may also be proven by ordinary witnesses who can describe the incapacitated spouse’s past experiences or environment growing up, which may have triggered one’s particular behavior.

Tan Andal also modified the requirement on incurability — that psychological incapacity under Article 36 … must now be incurable, not in the medical, but legal sense.

Thus,  it must be so enduring and persistent with respect to a specific partner, that the only result of the union would be the inevitable and irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

Ultimately, the totality of evidence must support a finding of psychological incapacity.

Guided by the foregoing, the Court finds that Hannemer failed to sufficiently prove that Grant is psychologically incapacitated to comply with one’s essential marital obligations.

Irreconcilable differences, sexual infidelity or perversion, emotional immaturity and irresponsibility and the like, do not by themselves prove the existence of psychological incapacity.

In the case at bar, We agree with the CA in holding that the psychological report is bereft of any factual basis proving Grant’s psychological incapacity.

It fails to prove the enduring aspects of Grant’s personality called ‘personality structure’ that manifest itself through clear acts of dysfunctionality that render him unable to discharge the essential marital obligations.

Notably there is no evidence on record proving that Grant’s alleged psychological incapacity existed prior to their marriage.

A reading of the findings reveals that Dr. Revita’s findings are lacking in data as to Grant’s personality structure and how it incapacitates him to perform the essential marital obligations.  Neither does it prove that Grant’s incapacity is due to a genuine psychic cause.

To be sure, the report must clearly specify Grant’s actions which are indicative of his alleged psychological incapacity.

In view of the absence of evidence on Grant’s personality structure, it is clear that Dr. Revita was not furnished with adequate information on which to base the conclusion that Grant is psychologically incapacitated.”

What then are the requirements to prove psychological incapacity? As the Supreme Court reiterated in the same case, guided by the Tan-Andal doctrine, petitioner must prove that:”(1) the psychological incapacity must be shown to have been existing at the time of the celebration of marriage; (2) caused by a durable aspect of one’s personality structure, one that was formed prior to their marriage (3) caused by a serious psychic cause; and (4) proven by clear and convincing evidence.”

These now are what we call the Tan-Andal guidelines that departed from the long-adhered to Molina Doctrine. Please be guided accordingly.

The facts and quoted provisions are from the case cited above.

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