The New Rules on Declaration of Absolute Nullity of Void Marriages and Annulment of Voidable Marriages took effect on March 15, 2003. This is the controlling procedure for the dissolution of marriages. The most important amendment to this Rule is that Appeal by the Solicitor General of the Decisions from the Regional Trial Court is not mandatory. We have simplified this rule for your easy understanding of the procedure.

This article also appeared on our legacy website www.gtalawphil.com when I first wrote it in 2004. But since then, there have been significant issuances of the Supreme Court impacting the filing of Petitions for Annulment Marriage and Nullity of Marriage. For instance, on October 2, 2018, the Supreme Court issued an en banc Resolution regarding compliance for validating the residence of the parties especially the Petitioner in Annulments, Nullity of Marriage, and Legal Separation cases. The Petition may be dismissed outright if the residency requirements have not been complied with.

RELATED POST: Updates on the Residency Requirements for Filing Annulment and Nullity of Marriage

Assuming that you are now are ready to file the Petition i.e. your Petition has already been prepared by counsel with all the supporting documents, including the Psychological Evaluation Report signed by your clinical Psychologist, these are what to expect, moving forward.

This is the office where the Petitioner files the Petition and pays the corresponding docket fees. The New Rule on Annulment and Nullity of Marriage says that the Petition shall be filed in the Regional Trial Court of the province or city where the petitioner or the respondent has been residing for at least six months before the date of filing, or in the case of a non-resident respondent, where he may be found in the Philippines, at the election of the petitioner.  

Under the new Rule, the opinion of an expert/doctor need not be alleged in the Petition. But we always recommend that you submit a copy of the Psychological Evaluation Report and attached it in the Petition because this is the foundation of your case. 

The raffling of cases is usually done every Monday, Tuesday, or Friday. But this step is no longer required in places where there is only one Regional Trial Court.  

Assuming that the Petition is sufficient in form and substance, the Clerk of Court will issue Summons to be served on the respondent spouse. Summons shall be directed to the respondent spouse containing 1) the name of the Court and the names of parties to the action, and 2) directing respondent spouse to file his answer within sixty (60) days after service of summons, or within thirty days from the last issue of the publication in case of service of summons by publication.

If the respondent spouse is residing outside of the court’s territorial jurisdiction, the summons shall be coursed through the Office of the Executive Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court where the respondent is said to be residing as stated in the Petition.

For instance, if the Petition is filed in Makati City and the respondent is residing in Davao City, the Court shall serve the summons through to the Office of the Executive Sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Davao, City. The Executive Sheriff of Davao City shall be the one who will serve the summons to the respondent spouse.

If the respondent spouse cannot be located at his given address or his whereabouts are unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent inquiry, service of summons may, by leave of court, be effected upon him by publication once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines and such places as the court may order. In addition, a copy of the summons shall be served on the respondent at his last known address by registered mail or any other means the court may deem sufficient.

The summons to be published shall be contained in an order of the court with the following data: (a) title of the case; (b) docket number; (c) nature of the petition; (d) principal grounds of the petition and the reliefs prayed for; and (e) a directive for the respondent to answer within thirty days from the last issue of the publication.

The answer must be verified by the respondent spouse and not by counsel or attorney-in-fact. If no Answer is filed, the Court will not declare the respondent spouse in default. However, the Court shall order the public prosecutor (Fiscal) to investigate whether the parties colluded with each other so that the respondent spouse agreed not to file the Answer. The public prosecutor usually requires the personal appearance of the parties during the scheduled hearing for investigation. 

The Court may also Order the public prosecutor to investigate when the respondent admitted his/her psychological incapacity in the Answer.  

The Petition shall be dismissed by the Court if collusion exists.

 

Before Pre-trial, the Court may refer the case to the social worker for the case study. The Court may also Order the referral of the case to a social worker at any stage of the proceedings. This is absolutely required when the parties have minor children. 

This is to mark the evidence and other exhibits. Appearance at this stage is with the Office of the Clerk of Court. Appearance of the Petitioner is not required.

This is mandatory. On motion of parties or at its initiative, the court shall set the case for pre-trial after the last pleading has been served and filed, or upon receipt of the report of the public prosecutor that no collusion exists between the parties.

The Notice of Pre-trial shall also direct the parties to submit their respective pre-trial briefs at least three days before the date of the pre-trial. The Notice shall also be served to the respondent spouse even if he/she does file an Answer.

The Pre-Trial Brief shall contain the following (a)   A statement of the willingness of the parties to enter into agreements as may be allowed by law, indicating the desired terms thereof; (b) A concise statement of their respective claims together with the applicable laws and authorities;  (c) Admitted facts and proposed stipulations of facts, as well as the disputed factual and legal issues; (d) All the evidence to be presented, including expert opinion, if any, briefly stating or describing the nature and purpose thereof; (e) The number and names of the witnesses and their respective affidavits; and (f) Such other matters as the court may require.

The case shall be dismissed if the petitioner fails to file a pre-trial brief. A good explanation filed in Court may save the Petition from its dismissal if there was a valid excuse for the non-submission of the pre-trial brief. 

The appearance of the parties in the pre-trial is mandatory. The case shall be dismissed if the Petitioner fails to appear in the pre-trial unless his/her counsel or a duly authorized representative appears in court and proves a valid excuse for the non-appearance of the petitioner. If the respondent filed an Answer but fails to appear in the Pre-trial, the court shall proceed with the pre-trial and require the public prosecutor to investigate the non-appearance of the respondent and require the submission of the Report to the court stating whether his/her non-appearance is due to any collusion or agreement between the parties. If there is no collusion or agreement, the court shall require the public prosecutor to intervene for the State during the trial on the merits to prevent suppression or fabrication of evidence.

In the pre-trial, the Court shall consider the advisability of receiving the doctor’s testimony and such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the petition.

At the pre-trial, the Court may refer the issues to a mediator who shall assist the parties in reaching an agreement on matters not prohibited by law. The mediator shall render a report within one month from referral which, for good reasons, the court may extend for a period not exceeding one month.  In case of mediation is not availed of by the parties or if it fails, the court shall proceed with the pre-trial.

But this only happens if the Petition is contested wherein the respondent spouse filed an Answer and objected to the Petition. This is common in Petitions for Nullity of Marriage where there are custody, support issues, and properties are involved.

 

Upon termination of the pre-trial, the Court shall issue an Order of pre-trial which shall recite in detail the matters taken up in the conference, the action taken thereon, the amendments allowed on the pleadings, the agreements or admissions made by the parties on any of the matters considered, including any provisional order that may be necessary or agreed upon by the parties.

The presiding judge shall personally conduct the trial of the case. No delegation of the reception of evidence to a commissioner shall be allowed except as to matters involving property relations of the spouses. The grounds for a declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage must be proved. No judgment on the pleadings, summary judgment, or confession of judgment shall be allowed. The court may also order the exclusion from the courtroom of all persons, including members of the press, who do not have a direct interest in the case. Such an order may be made if the court determines on the record that requiring a party to testify in open court would not enhance the ascertainment of truth; would cause to the party psychological harm or inability to effectively communicate due to embarrassment, fear, or timidity; would violate the right to privacy of a party, or would be offensive to decency or public morals. No copy shall be taken nor any examination or perusal of the records of the case or parts thereof be made by any person other than a party or counsel of a party, except by order of the court.

In the trial, it is absolutely recommended to present the expert testimony of the psychiatrist or clinical psychologist to prove the existence of psychological incapacity.

The trial shall proceed even if the respondent does not appear in Court, provided that the findings of the public prosecutor said that no collusion or conspiracy exists between the parties. In which case, the Court shall order the public prosecutor to intervene for the State to prevent suppression or fabrication of evidence and the case shall be tried solely on the evidence presented by the Petitioner.

Bear in mind that the processing time will be substantially reduced if the respondent spouse will not contest the Petition.

After the presentation of all your witnesses and Exhibits, the Court will require your counsel to formally submit all your evidence in Court. Some Judges require counsels to submit it orally after the presentation of their last witness. Others also give time to counsels to submit their Formal Offers in writing, usually 5 to 10 days. The Court may also give time to the public prosecutor to object to admissions of evidence. The Court may exclude some of your evidence for procedural reasons or admit all of your evidence for the purpose of which they are presented.

The Court may either grant or deny the Petition. If the Court grants the Petition, a decree of annulment shall be issued after the finality of the decision. The parties, including the Solicitor General and the public prosecutor, shall be served with copies of the decision personally or by registered mail. If the respondent summoned by publication failed to appear in the action, the dispositive part of the decision shall also be published once in a newspaper of general circulation.

A party aggrieved by the granting or denial of the Petition may file a Motion for Reconsideration within fifteen days from Notice of the Decision. The public prosecutor may also file a Motion for Reconsideration from the Decision granting the Petition.

No appeal from the decision shall be allowed unless the appellant has filed a motion for reconsideration or new trial within fifteen days from notice of judgment.

 

An aggrieved party or the Solicitor General may appeal from the decision by filing a Notice of Appeal within fifteen days from notice of denial of the motion for reconsideration or a new trial. The appellant shall serve a copy of the notice of appeal on the adverse parties.

The decision becomes final upon the expiration of fifteen (15) days from notice of judgment to the parties and no Appeal or Reconsideration was filed. Entry of judgment shall be made if no motion for reconsideration or a new trial, or appeal is filed by any of the parties, the public prosecutor, or the Solicitor General. Upon the finality of the decision, the court shall forthwith issue the corresponding decree.

The entry of judgment shall be registered in the Civil Registry where the marriage was recorded and in the Civil Registry where the Family Court granting the petition for declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage is located.

The Decree shall be issued after the submission of the proof of registration of the entry of judgment in the (1) Civil Registry where the marriage was recorded and in the (2) Civil Registry where the Family Court granting the petition for declaration of absolute nullity or annulment of marriage is located. 

Finally, you can now remarry.

For your questions and inquiries, contact us. Let’s Talk.

Alexander Acain (Esq.)

Alex Acain Jr. is the co-founding partner of the Law Firm. He is focused on client satisfaction, highly experienced, and a forward-thinker, with more than 23 years of experience in both local and international law practice.

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