Psychological incapacity as a legal concept, and not a medical condition

The case of Tan-Andal v. Andal (G.R. No. 196359, 11 May 2021) declares psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code as a legal concept, and not a medical condition.

Accordingly, testimonies of psychologists or psychiatrists are no longer necessary.

This a landmark case and a game changer for the following reasons.

1. Nullity cases will be less expensive.

Whereas before, nullity cases based on psychological incapacity would require an extensive psychological examination by a psychologist or psychiatrist. This can take from a few days, weeks, to months.

Thereafter, the psychological report will be submitted as a documentary evidence. To authenticate and verify the contents of the report, the attending psychologist or psychiatrist has to appear as an expert witness. The examination could take several hearings depending on the complexity of the case and/or questions directed at the doctor during cross-examination.

All these require compensation for the psychologist or psychiatrist. If they are no longer required, then party-litigants can save a lot on this big ticket expense.

By extension, it also means that the handling lawyer would have to attend a lesser number of hearings as it is no longer necessary to present a medical professional as an expert witness. This translates to savings on the part of the client.

2. Psychological incapacity is de-stigmatized.

There is a stigma to the term psychological incapacity. I’ve encountered a case where a party preferred to live with an unhappy marriage than be diagnosed with it.

While there have been many advancements on mental health awareness, there is still a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. Many want to avoid being labeled as having any psychological or mental condition. For some, the perception of the stigma is overpowering that they would rather live a very unhappy life.

All in all, it is a step towards the right direction that psychological incapacity be considered as a legal concept, and not a medical condition.