Republic of the Philippines vs Rodolfo De Gracia

June 17, 2015
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G.R. No. 171557 – Civil Law – Persons and Family Relations – Family Code – Article 36; Psychological Incapacity – Personal Evaluation by Psychologist – Need for Independent Evidence to Prove Psychological Incapacity

In 1969, Rodolfo De Gracia and Natividad Rosalem married each other. Their first child was born in the same year. In 1972, they begot a second child. However, after giving birth, Natividad left their conjugal home, even selling said house, and then had an affair with an engineer. She bore a child with the said engineer. In 1991, she left the engineer and cohabited with another man.

In 1998, Rodolfo filed a petition to have their marriage be declared void on the ground that Natividad is psychologically incapacitated. Rodolfo engaged the services of Dr. Cheryl Zalsos to evaluate both parties. In court, Zalsos testified that both parties are psychologically incapacitated; that Rodolfo failed to perform his obligations as a husband, adding too that he sired a son with another woman; that Natividad lacked the willful cooperation of being a wife and a mother to her two daughters; that both suffered from “utter emotional immaturity which is unusual and unacceptable behavior considered as deviant from persons who abide by established norms of conduct”; that the mental condition of both parties already existed at the time of the celebration of marriage, although it only manifested after.

The RTC gave weight to Zalsos testimony hence the marriage was declared void. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

ISSUE: Whether or not psychological incapacity was proven in this case.

HELD: No. The evidence presented failed to support a finding of psychological incapacity. The psychiatric evaluation report of Dr. Zalsos does not explain in reasonable detail how Natividad’s condition could be characterized as grave, deeply-rooted, and incurable within the parameters of psychological incapacity jurisprudence (Molina Guidelines).

The Supreme Court also ruled: Although expert opinions furnished by psychologists regarding the psychological temperament of parties are usually given considerable weight by the courts, the existence of psychological incapacity must still be proven by independent evidence.

 

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HOWARD’S NOTES:

1. It is interesting to note that the SC only discussed the insufficiency of evidence as regards Natividad’s psychological incapacity but did not delve on the findings of the psychologist as to Rodolfo’s.

2. In previous cases,  i.e., Marcos vs Marcos, the SC noted that though personal evaluation by a psychologist of the spouse sought to be declared psychologically incapacitated is not mandatorily required, such personal examination must be had if there are no other independent evidence presented – especially if the only basis is the statements of the petitioning spouse and/or his/her witnesses (Ochosa vs Alano). But in this case, even though the spouse sought to be declared psychologically incapacitated was personally examined by the psychologist, the SC still ruled that other independent evidence must still be presented.

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