What is “Psychological Incapacity?”

What’s the meaning of “psychological incapacity?”

I’m a psychotherapist, not an attorney. But it’s a question I’m invariably asked by some in marital crisis considering the legal route. In the Philippines, the premise “psychological incapacity” is a common ground used (whether appropriately or not) by those seeking legal annulment (divorce) of their marriage.

To “legalize” an ongoing adulterous relationship with a foreigner, a Filipino OFW married woman with 3 kids filed for annulment of her marriage in a provincial Regional Trial Court. She cited “psychological incapacity” on the part of her husband who is a Christian missionary/pastor/Bible teacher. Mixing truths with half-truths/untruths/lies, she alleged insufficient family finances, “excess bible studies,” children neglect, even regular physical harm, among other things.

In legal terms, based on Article 36 of the Philippine Family Code, the question now is, are these alleged acts of the husband of this OFW woman sufficient proofs that he’s “psychologically incapacitated” to perform essential marital obligations? Are they valid to render their legal marriage null and void?

If one is to base on an article titled “DIFFICULTY, NOT INCAPACITY” in The Philippine Star (3/17/2011) written by author/TV host Atty. Jose Sison along with his cited SCRA 389 decision on the case Toring vs. Toring, G.R. 165821, Aug. 3, 2010, the answer is NO. The above woman’s characterizations of her husband “do not rise to the level of a psychological incapacity required under the Family Code.”

According to Atty. Sison, Article 36 of the Family Code “contemplates downright incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and assume marital responsibilities.” “Mere difficulty,” Atty. Sison writes, “refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will on the part of the spouse is different from ‘incapacity rooted on some debilitating psychological conditions or illness’. ”

“Psychological Incapacity,” as defined by Article 36 of the Philippine Family Code, is a condition that’s required to be established as a manifestation of a “disordered personality,” completely preventing a person from discharging marital obligations. In cases like this, psychologists and psychiatrists are called to give expert diagnoses and opinions in the court of law.

Now, let me just say that this is merely a human “legal” view and process. Experience strongly evidences that it can often be manipulated or used as cover up, as in the case of the unfaithful OFW woman. “Legal” is different from “spiritual” or what God sees as right and healthy for marriages. Not all legal is right and moral then.

Scripturally, there’s no such thing as “psychological incapacity” as ground for divorce or dissolution of marriage. If you go by the biblical ground, the qualified condition for divorce or dissolution of marriage is found in Matthew 5:32 (sexual immorality, adultery). Founded on the Scriptural premise, in the case of the unfaithful OFW woman, it’s actually her own legal husband who has the right and sufficient ground to “divorce” her, not the other way around.

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