- Cohabitation as an exception to marriage license must be without legal impediments.
- The validity of a void marriage may be questioned even after the death of either of the parties.
328 SCRA 122 | Full Text
Petitioners Niñal were the children of Pepito Niñal during marriage. Pepito killed their mother and one year and 8 months later married respondent Bayadog without marriage license. However, they executed an affidavit that they have cohabited together for at least five years and thus were exempted from securing a marriage license. In Feb 1997, Pepito died and the petitioners filed a petition for declaration of nullity of the second marriage due to absence of marriage license. The petition was grounded on the assumption that it might affect the successional rights of the Niñals. Bayadog averred that Niñal have no cause of action and not among the persons who could file an action for “annulment of marriage” under Article 47 of the Family Code.
The lower court dismissed the petition of the Niñals on the ground that Annulment/Voidable must be a direct attack.
A void marriage is subject to collateral attack: (1) Case can be filed by interested parties or heirs even after the lifetime of the parties. (2) Can also be raised in an estate proceeding involving property.
Issues and Ruling
Will the successional rights of the Niñals be affected because of their father’s second marriage with Bayadog?
No, because the second marriage is void. As a general rule, a marriage license is a requirement for marriage but there are exceptions: one of which is cohabitation for at least 5 years without legal impediments (Article 76 Old Civil Code). No third party must be involved during those 5 years to be exempt from marriage license, otherwise, the law will encourage immorality. In this case, Pepito and Bayadog cannot claim their 5-year cohabitation as an exception because such is an adulterous one. Thus, their marriage was void and the successional rights of the Niñals will not be affected.
Is Bayadog’s contention correct?
No. Bayadog contends that the Niñals have no cause of action because they are not among those listed under Article 47 of the Family Code. Article 47 provides causes or grounds of action where a marriage may be annulled. However, these are grounds for voidable marriages and not for void marriages. Void marriages may be questioned even after the death of either of the parties (this is sometimes called “can be collaterally attacked”) but voidable marriages may only be questioned during the lifetime of the parties. The reason why a voidable marriage may only be questioned during the lifetime of the parties is that it may leave their offspring as legitimate. On the converse, once any of the party of a voidable dies, it will be disastrous to declare their offspring as illegitimate which once lived up with the knowledge of the legitimacy of their parent’s marriage. Here, Bayadog’s and Pepito’s marriage was void, therefore Article 47 does not apply. Furthermore, the heirs of Niñals may validly question such subsequent marriage.