Simundac-Keppel v. Keppel

G.R. No. 202039, August 14, 2019


Angelita Keppel left the Philippines to work in Germany as a nurse. She was first married to Reynaldo Macaraig but separated due to her infidelity. Angelita and Georg (also married) continued their relationship.  In 1986, Angelita became a naturalized German citizen. 

Angelita obtained a divorce decree on her first marriage. Shortly thereafter, Angelita and Georg got married in Germany and had a daughter, whom they named Liselotte. In 1991, Angelita and Georg entered into an agreement for the complete separation of their properties. Angelita decided to return and settle permanently in the Philippines in 1992.

In 1996, Angelita filed the instant petition for annulment of marriage on the ground of Georg’s alleged psychological incapacity.  Georg opposed the petition, insisting that the court should only issue a decree of legal separation with the consequent division of their properties and determination of Liselotte’s custody.

RTC rendered judgment declaring the marriage of Angelita and Georg null and void. 

The CA reversed and dismissed the complaint on the ground that Angelita failed to prove the allegations in her complaint because – 

  1. she did not present the original of her divorce decree from Reynaldo Macaraig
  2. she did not also prove the German law that capacitated her to marry Georg
  3. evidence was insufficient to prove that either of the parties herein had been psychologically incapacitated to comply with essential marital obligation


1. Whether Angelita’s petition for annulment of marriage under the Philippine law is proper

2. Whether the marriage between Angelita and Georg is null and void due to psychological incapacity.


1. NO. Under the Nationality Principle, the petitioner cannot invoke Article 36 of the Family Code unless there is a German law that allows her to do so. Angelita’s petition for annulment of marriage under the Philippine law is improper   because of both Georg and Angelita being German citizens, not Filipinos, at the time of the filing thereof. Based on the Nationality Principle, which is followed in this jurisdiction, and pursuant to which laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad, it was the pertinent German law that governed. In short, Philippine law finds no application herein as far as the family rights and obligations of the parties who are foreign nationals are concerned. 

Firstly, what governs the marriage of the parties is German, not Philippine, law, and this rendered it incumbent upon Angelita to allege and prove the applicable German law. Our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws; hence, the existence and contents of such laws are regarded as questions of fact, and, as such, must be alleged and proved like any other disputed fact. Proof of the relevant German law may consist of any of the following, namely: (1) official publications of the law; or (2) copy attested to by the officer having legal custody of the foreign law. If the official record is not kept in the Philippines, the copy must be (a) accompanied by a certificate issued by the proper diplomatic or consular officer in the Philippine foreign service stationed in the foreign country in which the record is kept; and (b) authenticated by the seal of his office. Angelita did not comply with the requirements for pleading and proof of the relevant German law.

Second, the remedy of annulment of the marriage due to psychological incapacity afforded by Article 36 of the Family Code might not be available for her. In the absence of a showing of her right to this remedy in accordance with German law, therefore, the petition should be dismissed.

2. Assuming the remedy was proper, the petitioner did not prove the respondent’s psychological incapacity. Psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Family Code contemplates an incapacity or inability to take cognizance of and to assume basic marital obligations, and is not merely the difficulty, refusal, or neglect in the performance of marital obligations or ill will. The disorder consists of: (a) a true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage; (b) the inability must refer to the essential obligations of marriage, that is, the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, and the procreation and education of offspring; and (c) the inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality. Proving that a spouse did not meet his or her responsibility and duty as a married person is not enough; it is essential that he or she must be shown to be incapable of doing so because of some psychological illness.

The petitioner presented no evidence to show that the anti-social behavior manifested by both parties had been grave, and had existed at the time of the celebration of the marriage as to render the parties incapable of performing all the essential marital obligations provided by law.