Wrong remedy

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

Article 52 of the Family Code (FC) requires that the judgment of absolute nullity of marriage, the partition and distribution of the properties of the spouses and the delivery of the children’s presumptive legitime’s shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registry and registry of properties. Failure to comply with these requirements will render the subsequent marriage of any of the spouses in the nullified marriage also void upon filing of the proper petition pursuant to Article 53 of the FC. But who can file said petition if one of the spouses dies? Can the heirs file it? These are the questions resolved in our case for today.

This case is about Romy who first married Lilia and begot five children with her namely, Angie, Cathy, Pete, Mandy and Dina. After about 22 years of marriage, Romy filed a Petition for Declaration of Nullity of his marriage to Lilia on the ground of the latter’s psychological incapacity. In said petition Romy declared as conjugal properties a parcel of land located in a first-class subdivision covered by a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT No. 80923) and the merchandise inventory in their business.

After hearing the petition, the Regional Trial Court declared the marriage of Romy and Lilia null and void on the ground of Lilia’s psychological incapacity and ordered the division of their conjugal properties as well as support and delivery of the presumptive legitime of their children. However, said decision and its certificate of finality were not registered with the Office of the Civil Registry of the City. So, it was not annotated in the TCT of their house and lot and no actual partition was undertaken. The presumptive legitime’s of their children were also not delivered.

One year after said decision nullifying his marriage to Lilia, Romy married a woman by the name of Carrie. But nine years thereafter, he died. So, Carrie filed a petition for the settlement of Romy’s Intestate Estate.

Romy’s five children with his former wife Lilia filed a Comment/ Opposition to the said petition, alleging that while the marriage of Romy and Lilia was nullified it was not recorded in the civil registry and no separation and liquidation of the properties acquired during such marriage and delivery of their presumptive legitime was made pursuant to Article 102 of the FC. So, they contended that the subsequent marriage of their father to Carrie was null and void according to Article 52 in relation to Article 53 of the FC. The children also claimed that pursuant to Article 92 of the FC the properties acquired during the previous marriage of Romy and their mother Lilia should not have been included in the property regime of their father and Carrie.

Pursuant to this Comment/Opposition, Lilia and her five children with Romy also filed a petition with the RTC for Declaration of Nullity of the marriage of Romy and Carrie on the ground that the said marriage was entered into without complying with the provisions of Articles 52 and 53 regarding the decision of the RTC on the nullity of the first marriage to Lilia. Were they the real parties in interest in filing the petition?

The Supreme Court said that they are not the real parties in interest to file this petition. Pursuant to Section 2(a) of Administrative Circular 02-11-10-SC, only the aggrieved or injured husband or wife has the sole right to file the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of the subsequent marriage Romy and Carrie. Obviously, the children and heirs of Romy cannot file said Petition. On the other hand, Lilia is not the “wife” in the marriage that she and her children sought to annul. She is not the spouse of Romy as their marriage has already been declared void from the beginning. The prior spouse like Lilia can file the petition for nullity, if the subsequent marriage is bigamous. In this case the petition filed was not anchored on the ground of bigamy, but on non-compliance with the provisions of Articles 52 and 53 of the FC. So, there is no existing marriage to speak of which would render Romy and Carrie’s marriage bigamous. As such Lilia cannot be considered as an injured spouse in a bigamous marriage that entitles her to file a petition for nullity of the subsequent marriage of Romy to Carrie. Her remedy is to file a separate civil action for partition against the appointed administrator of Romy’s estate.

As to the five children who are heirs of Romy, they filed the petition under the assumption that the validity or invalidity of Romy and Carrie’s marriage would affect their successional rights and share in Romy’s estate. While they are not the real party in interest in this case, it does not mean that they are already without recourse under the law. They can amply protect their successional rights by collaterally raising the issue on the validity of Romy and Carrie’s marriage in the petition filed by Carrie for the settlement of the estate of Romy.

So, the Petition for Declaration of Nullity of the subsequent marriage of Romy and Carrie should be dismissed without prejudice to the right of the five children of Romy to challenge the validity of said marriage in the proceeding for the settlement of his estate. On the other hand, Lilia can file a separate civil action for partition of their conjugal properties, particularly the house and lot located in a first-class subdivision consisting of 500 sq. m. covered by TCT No. 80923. This is the ruling in the case of David and the Heirs of Aguas vs. Calilung, G.R. 241036, Jan. 26, 2021.

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