CASE IN POINT: A limited purpose marriage is valid

A Limited Purpose Marriage is Valid

Greetings to all our readers. In this column we will discuss cases that are of great help to our fellow members of the legal profession, students and the community as well. We will be selecting cases that are relevant to our everyday life. Hence, a case on the law on marriage is our first subject, a case that everyone may be familiar with. The very lesson that it conveys is this: Even if a marriage is for a limited purpose, like having a Filipina obtaining an American citizenship to the extent of paying the American citizen to marry her, the marriage is still valid.

In Republic v. Liberty Albios, G.R. No. 198780, October 16, 2013, Mendoza, J, the RTC declared a marriage void as it was a farce and should not be recognized from its in inception. Giving credence to the testimony of Albios, it stated that she contracted Fringer to enter into a marriage to enable her to acquire American citizenship; that in consideration thereof, she agreed to pay him the sum of $2,000.00; that after the ceremony, the parties went their separate ways; that American citizen returned to the United States and never again communicated with her; and that, in turn, she did not pay him the $2,000.00 because he never processed her petition for citizenship. The RTC, thus, ruled that when marriage was entered into for a purpose other than the establishment of a conjugal and family life, such was a farce and should not be recognized from its inception.

The CA affirmed the RTC ruling which found that the essential requisite of consent was lacking as the parties clearly did not understand the nature and consequence of getting married and that their case was similar to a marriage in jest. The parties never intended to enter into the marriage contract and never intended to live as husband and wife or build a family. It concluded that their purpose was primarily for personal gain, that is, for the Filipina to obtain foreign citizenship, and for American citizen, the consideration of $2,000.00

Reversing the CA, the Supreme Court

Held: Under Article 2 of the Family Code, consent as an essential requisite of marriage. Article 4 of the same Code provides that the absence of any essential requisite shall render a marriage void ab initio.

Consent was not lacking between the parties. In fact, there was real consent because it was not vitiated or rendered defective by any vice of consent. Their consent was also conscious and intelligent as they understood the nature and the beneficial and inconvenient consequences of their marriage, as nothing impaired their ability to do so. That their consent was freely given is best evidenced by their conscious purpose of acquiring American citizenship through marriage. Such plainly demonstrates that they willingly and deliberately contracted the marriage. There was a clear intention to enter into a real and valid marriage so as to fully comply with the requirements of an application for citizenship. There was a full and complete understanding of the legal tie that would be created between them, since it was that precise legal tie which was necessary to accomplish their goal.

The CA characterized their marriage as one by way of jest. A marriage in jest is a pretended marriage, legal in form but entered into as a joke, with no real intention of entering into the actual marriage status, and with a clear understanding that the parties would not be bound. The ceremony is not followed by any conduct indicating a purpose to enter into such a relation. It is a pretended marriage not intended to be real and with no intention to create any legal ties whatsoever, hence, the absence of any genuine consent. Marriages in jest are void ab initio, not for vitiated, defective, or unintelligent consent, but for a complete absence of consent. There is no genuine consent because the parties have absolutely no intention of being bound in any way or for any purpose.

The marriage is not at all analogous to a marriage in jest. They had an undeniable intention to be bound in order to create a very bond necessary to allow the respondent to acquire American citizenship. Only a genuine consent to be married would allow them to further their objective, considering that only a valid marriage can properly support an application for citizenship. There was, thus, an apparent intention to enter into the actual marriage status and to create a legal tie, albeit for a limited purpose. Genuine consent was, therefore, clearly present.

Marriage valid even if the purpose is to secure citizenship.

The avowed purpose of marriage under Article 1 of the Family Code is for the couple to establish a conjugal and family life. The possibility that the parties in a marriage might have no real intention to establish a life together is, however, insufficient to nullify a marriage freely entered into in accordance with law. The same Article 1 provides that the nature, consequences, and incidents of marriage are governed by law and not subject to stipulation. A marriage may, thus, only be declared void or voidable under the grounds provided by law. There is no law that declares a marriage void if it is entered into for purposes other than what the Constitution or law declares, such as the acquisition of foreign citizenship. Therefore, so long as all the essential and formal requisites prescribed by law are present, and it is not void or voidable under the grounds provided by law, it shall be declared valid (Article 4, Family Code).

Motives in marriage are varied.

Motives for entering into a marriage are varied and complex. The State does not and cannot dictate on the kind of life that a couple chooses to lead. Any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would go into the realm of their right to privacy and would raise serious constitutional questions  (Bark v. Immigration & Naturalization Service, 511 F.2d 1200, 1201 [19th Cir. 1975]). The right to marital privacy allows married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see fit, to live together or live apart, to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on (Abrams, Kerry. Immigration Law and the Regulation of Marriage; 91 Minn. L. Rev. 1625 (2007);; citing McGuire v. McGuire , 59 N.W.2d 336, 337 (Neb. 1953). Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 485–86 (1965)). Thus, marriages entered into for other purposes, limited or otherwise, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and title, provided that they comply with all the legal requisites, are equally valid. Love, though the ideal consideration in a marriage contract, is not the only valid cause for marriage. Other considerations, not precluded by law, may validly support a marriage.

Dean Ed Vincent S. Albano is the Bar Review Director of Albano Bar Review Center. He authored books/reviewers in Civil Law, Political,  Law, Remedial Law and Legal Ethics.

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