Annulling a Non-Existent Marriage

Law in a vacuum is straightforward. Life complicates it. To illustrate, the law says that the proper petition (annulment, declaration of nullity, or recognition of foreign divorce decree) must be filed to change the marital status of a person. The whole universe of complications include two interesting variations: (a) a fake marriage that is not supposed to be registered; and (b) a real marriage that is not registered.

The first has been discussed in other posts. This covers “secret marriages” or “for show” marriages to produce documents, with the “assurance” that the documents will not be registered with the NSO. In essence, a marriage — even if “fake” — is presumed to be valid when documents are filed with the NSO. This is why the NSO would not amend or revise (technically, annotate on) the Marriage Certificate unless there’s a court order saying that the marriage is indeed “fake” (or valid/void for the reasons provided by law). The proper petition must be filed in court and the proceedings completed. It’s not exactly an inexpensive process, but there’s no other way.

The second scenario is a bit tricky. Can you annul a marriage when there is no Marriage Certificate filed with the NSO? This is illustrated in the query in the other post (“Annulment in the Philippines: Questions and Answers Part 5, OFW Edition“):

My friend was undergoing annullment proceedings when they discovered that their marriage does not even exist in NSO records. They both don’t know who was supposed to be in charge of filing the lisences they signed during the ceremony so they suspect their marriage was never filed. Does this mean their marriage “did not happen” and therefore there is no need to go through with the annulment proceedings?

So, let’s address this query in general (no legal advice here). This is an interesting topic for academic discussion. Feel free to express your take on the matter through the comment section below. Here’s my take on the matter.

It’s difficult to imagine going through annulment proceedings without first securing an authentic copy, using security paper (SECPA) from the NSO, of the Marriage Certificate, which is then attached to the petition for annulment/declaration of nullity.

Anyway, considering that there’s no record with the NSO, the more convenient way is to simply act like there was no marriage. Strictly speaking, however, the absence of a Marriage Certificate on file with the NSO does not mean that the marriage does not exist. For one, the spouses signed a Marriage Certificate during the marriage ceremony and it is not uncommon that the certificate of marriage, while filed with the local civil registrar, has not been properly transmitted to the NSO.  By way of background, the Marriage Certificate is registered with the local civil registrar (of the place where the marriage was solemnized) and the local civil registrar is tasked to transmit it to NSO. There’s a copy filed with the local civil registrar, so check there (of course, extraordinary events may supervene that would destroy the local civil registrar copy, like, in some of the cases we’ve handled, the destruction of documents during Typhoon Ondoy or a fire).

More importantly, the non-existence of a Marriage Certificate with the NSO does not erase the fact that the marriage was celebrated. The certificate is an evidence of the marriage, which can be proved by other evidence.

55 comments

  1. Hi atty.
    Good day po.
    Kinasal po ung bf ko 10years ago, kumuha siya ng cenomar tapos ngreflect dun na mali ung name ng asawa at parents nia pero ung name nia tama, wala din ngrereflect sa NSO birth cert na marriage na siya single pa rin status nun at sa pagkakaalam ko po wala din marriage license ung kasal nila, considered valid ba rin ba ung kasal nia? ano po maganda gawin para mavoid un record nia.
    Salamat
    Faith

  2. Hi. 6 years ago, kinasal ang boyfriend ko sa ex-gf nya.

    Ang boyfriend ko po was forced to marry his ex-girlfriend (at the time na kami na) dahil may anak sila, ang reason ng family ni ex-gf is para mabigyan ng last name ang bata (in a sense, shot-gun wedding to).

    Ang family ni ex-gf ang nagasikaso, marriage license, wedding rings, wedding ceremony and reception.

    di po umattend si boyfriend ng pre-marriage counseling, family planning & parenthood seminar
    (1) valid ba ang marriage license?

    judge/fiscal ang nag-facilitate ng wedding ceremony
    di po nag-sign ng totoong signature si boyfriend
    (2) valid ba ang marriage contract?

    pagkuha namin ng CENOMAR – registered sa NSO ang kasal.
    (3) pano malalaman if totoong valid ang marriage license na nakalagay sa marriage contract or sa CENOMAR?
    (4) in this case, ginamit ang bata para maikasal sila – ano ang pwedeng i-file na kaso sa ex-gf?

    after ng kasal, di naman sila nag-sex. di sila nagsama sa iisang bubong. umalis agad si boyfriend within 3 weeks papunta sa abroad. and di na sila nagkita since nung kasal.

    Heto po ulit ang questions ko:
    (1) valid ba ang marriage license?
    (2) valid ba ang marriage contract kung di totoo ang signature?
    (3) pano malalaman if totoong valid ang marriage license na nakalagay sa marriage contract or sa CENOMAR?
    (4) in this case, ginamit ang bata para maikasal sila – ano ang pwedeng i-file na kaso sa ex-gf?
    (5) pwede bang mag-file ng nullity ng marriage?

    1. -marriage is valid.
      -no cause of action against the ex-gf because technically, she is the legal wife.
      -I don’t see any sufficient reason or circumstance that could have vitiated the consent of the husband during his marriage.
      -if it was indeed the fiscal who solemnized the marriage, then, your bf can file a declaration of nullity of marriage. Fiscals are not authorize to solemnize marriages in the Philippines.

    2. Confused Girlfriend,
      Sagot
      Heto po ulit ang questions ko:
      (1) valid ba ang marriage license? SABIHIN MO SA BF MO NA MAGREQUEST SIYA SA LOCAL CIVIL REGISTRAR CERTIFICATION OR CERTIFIED TRUE COPY NG MARRIAGE LICENSE NUMBER NA NAKALAGAY SA KANILANG MARRIAGE CONTRACT AT KUNG SAANG CITY/MUNISIPYO NAISSUED AT KUNG ANO DATE NAISSUED. PLS. TINGNAN MO NA LANG SA COPY NG MARRIAGE CONTRACT. AT KUNG MERONG EXISTING RECORD ACCORDING SA NAKASULAT SA MARRIAGE CONTRACT GAYA NG MARRIAGE LICENSE, DATE, AT PLACE AY PAREHONG PAREHO MAAARING VALID NGA.
      (2) valid ba ang marriage contract kung di totoo ang signature? VALID KAHIT ANONG KLASENG SIGNATURE ANG SINULAT NYA KUNG NAGAATTEND SYA MISMO.
      (3) pano malalaman if totoong valid ang marriage license na nakalagay sa marriage contract or sa CENOMAR? BALIKAN MO SAGOT SA (1).
      (4) in this case, ginamit ang bata para maikasal sila – ano ang pwedeng i-file na kaso sa ex-gf? IRRELEVANT QUESTION – BAKA IKAW PA KASUHAN NG ASAWA NYA WAG ATAT! VERIFY MO MUNA ITEM NO. (1).
      (5) pwede bang mag-file ng nullity ng marriage? MALALAMAN MO KUNG PWEDE KUNG ANO RESULTA NG (1).

  3. Atty… Good afternoon. pag po ba ang kasal ay sa simbahan lang at yung lang din ang nakarehistro sa Cenomar, sa simbahan lang po ba ang dapat ipa annull, 11 yrs napo kami na di nagsasama at mag papa anull na kami para maka move on na kami sa buhay namin since mga adults na ang aming mga anak. kailangan pa rin po ba sa Civil magpa anull?
    We need clarification, TQ

  4. dear sir/madam

    I am writing to inquire on the family code law concerning Solemnizing Officers
    my partner was married by her relative with there own church and faith in davao around 20 years ago and her husband walked out and left her about 18 years ago,
    he has had his new family with children for 14 years or more, my partner and i have 1 child, i am british, and we did try for annulment about 4 years ago now but
    was refused because her husband said in court he didn’t want an annulment and our case was denied.

    back to the Solemnizing Officer, my partner now tells me that the family relative who performed the marriage, his church was not registered until 1 year after they were married.
    please read below an extract of the family code law for Solemnizing Officers.

    (2) Any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect;

    could this help with annulment and make the marriage void?

    regards

  5. Hi po! Gusto ko po sanang itanong kung maaari pa po bang ipa unregister yung marriage certificate sa municipal kahit na nakaregister na? Pero wala pa naman po sa NSO. Ano po ba ang pwedeng gawin para hindi na po gumastos para sa annulment case. Kinasal po ako sa simbahan last april 3, 2016. My copy na po ako ng marriage certificate namin pero gusto ko po sanang iunregister na lang for some reason. Magkano po kaya ang magagastos or ano po ba ang dapat kong gawin para maging invalid na po? Nakaregister na po sa munisipyo pero wala pa po sa NSO. Salamat po

  6. Hi po! Gusto ko po sanang itanong kung maaari pa po bang ipa unregister yung marriage certificate sa municipal kahit na nakaregister na? Pero wala pa naman po sa NSO. Ano po ba ang pwedeng gawin para hindi na po gumastos para sa annulment case. Kinasal po ako sa simbahan last april 3, 2016. My copy na po ako ng marriage certificate namin pero gusto ko po sanang iunregister na lang for some reason. Magkano po kaya ang magagastos or ano po ba ang dapat kong gawin para maging invalid na po? Nakaregister na po sa munisipyo pero wala pa po sa NSO. Maaari po sanang matulungan nyo ako sa issue na ito. Salamat po

  7. Hi po pano po kong ang taon ng kapanganakan ay fake sa marriage contract(ex.marriage contract is 1965 but the real birth year is 1970) ano po ba valid pa din po ba ang kasal,ano po ba ang pwedeng gawin ukol dito?

  8. Hi
    Ask ko po kung legal po ba ang kasal kahit kulang ang requirements
    Pano po maayos kasi di po kami magkasundo at hiwalay na po kami almost 4 yrs na po ano po pwede gawin di po kasi kaya ang anulment sana matulunga nyo po ako
    Salamat po

    1. As a rule absence of essential or formal requisite renders the marriage void. however, the is a presumption of validity of marriage in several cited jurisprudence.
      Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio.

      assuming that the marriage contracted was valid but void ab initio (void from the beginning) due to absence of the formal and essential marriage, spouses need to secure a JUDICIAL DECREE OF NULLITY from the court should one of them decide to re marry.

      spouses cannot by themselves decide the validity of marriage. in pain of criminal prosecution should they again decide to re marry without the decree.

  9. Hi Po,kapag yong kasal Po na ipiniki yong cenomar nang lalaki, tapos single pa din Yong status nang lalaki sa NSO.

    Tanong ko Po:

    Legal ba yong kasal nila?

    Pwd Po ba mag-asawa ulit ng iba yong lalaki?

  10. Good day atty, meron akong friend na nag inquire sa PAO regarding sa process sa pag annul ng kasal nila ng asawa nya. She was asked several question at isa doon kung meron silang marriage license. Nakita sa SECPA Marriage certificate nya na walang license # at place issued and date issued. The same thing po sa aking SECPA marriage certificate. Minadali lang po ang kasal namin ng asawa ko in 1998 and I only remembered signing the Marriage certificate and not the marriage license. Isa pa, we never went through the right process. Kung walang marriage license # naka reflect sa marriage certificate ko is it possible na wala talagang valid license? Civil po ang wedding namin at binayaran lang ng asawa ko ang clerk to rush our certificate. Di pa po ako naka inquire sa Civil registrar sa city hall pero I just want to know if there is a possibility that I can use this as ground to nullify our marriage if ever? Ang walang license # sa marriage certificate possible ba na wala talaga? Thank you po

  11. My supposed husband faked his name in the marriage certificate and was found tipo have previous marriage using his real name. He did not pay a single visit since 13 years ago and did not give support. I am raising our child alone who is now 13 years old. Can the marriage be considered void? Can I change the surname of our child because he uses his biological father’s surname?

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