Property Relationship In A Void Marriage

In Lupo Atienza v. Yolanda de Castro, G.R. No. 169698, November 29, 2006, Lupo, a married man cohabited with Yolanda as husband and wife. During their coverture, they allegedly acquired a real property and registered it under the name of Yolanda. Their cohabitation turned sour, hence, they parted. He filed an action for partition contending that they owned it in common under the concept of limited co-ownership. Yolanda contended that she alone was the owner as she acquired it thru her own savings as a businesswoman. The RTC declared the property subject of co-ownership, but the CA reversed it as he failed to prove material contribution in the acquisition of the same. On appeal, he contended that he was not burdened to prove that he contributed in the acquisition of the property because with or without contribution he was deemed a co-owner adding that under Article 484, NCC, for as long as they acquired the property during their extramarital union, such property would be legally owned by them in common and governed by the rule on co-ownership. Is the contention correct? Explain.

 Held: No. It is not disputed that the parties herein were not capacitated to marry each other because Lupo Atienza was validly married to another woman at the time of his cohabitation with Yolanda. Their property regime, therefore, is governed by Article 148 of the Family Code, which applies to bigamous marriages, adulterous relationship, relationships in a state of concubinage, relationships where both man and woman are married to other persons, and multiple alliances of the same married man. Under this regime, …only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. (Cariño v. Cariño, 351 SCRA 127 (2001)). Proof of actual contribution is required. (Agapay v. Palang, 342 Phil. 302).

            As it is, the regime of limited co-ownership of property governing the union of parties who are not legally capacitated to marry each other, but who nonetheless live together as husband and wife, applies to properties acquired during said cohabitation in proportion to their respective contributions. Co-ownership will only be up to the extent of the proven actual contribution of money, property or industry. Absent proof of the extent thereof, their contributions and corresponding shares shall be presumed to be equal. (Adriano v. CA, 385 Phil. 474 (2000); Tumlos v. Fernandez, G.R. No. 137650, April 12, 2000, 330 SCRA 718; Atienza v. Yolanda de Castro, G.R. No. 169698, November 29, 2006).

             Here, although the adulterous cohabitation of the parties commenced in 1983, or way before the effectivity of the Family Code on August 3, 1998, Article 148 thereof applies because this provision was intended precisely to fill up the hiatus in Article 144 of the Civil Code. (Saguid v. CA, et al., G.R. No. 150611, June 10, 2003, 403 SCRA 678). Before Article 148 of the Family Code was enacted, there was no provision governing property relations of couples living in a state of adultery or concubinage. Hence, even if the cohabitation or the acquisition of the property occurred before the Family Code took effect, Article 148 governs. (Tumlos v. Fernandez; Article 256, F.C.).

             The applicable law being settled the burden of proof rests upon the party who, as determined by the pleadings or the nature of the case, asserts an affirmative issue. Contentions must be proved by competent evidence and reliance must be had on the strength of the party’s own evidence and not upon the weakness of the opponent’s defense. The petitioner as plaintiff below is not automatically entitled to the relief prayed for. The law gives the defendant some measure of protection as the plaintiff must still prove the allegations in the complaint. Favorable relief can be granted only after the court is convinced that the facts proven by the plaintiff warrant such relief. Indeed, the party alleging a fact has the burden of proving it and a mere allegation is not evidence.

             It is the petitioner’s posture that the respondent, having no financial capacity to acquire the property in question, merely manipulated the dollar bank accounts of his two (2) corporations to raise the amount needed therefor. Unfortunately for petitioner, his submissions are burdened by the fact that his claim to the property contradicts duly written instruments, i.e., the Contract to Sell dated March 24, 1987, the Deed of Assignment of Redemption dated March 27, 1987 and the Deed of Transfer dated April 27, 1987, all entered into by and between the respondent and the vendor of said property, to the exclusion of the petitioner.

             The claim of co-ownership in the disputed property is without basis because not only did he fail to substantiate his alleged contribution in the purchase thereof but likewise the very trail of documents pertaining to its purchase as evidentiary proof redounds to the benefit of the respondent. In contrast, aside from his mere say so and voluminous records of bank accounts, which sadly find no relevance in this case, the petitioner failed to overcome his burden of proof. Allegations must be proven by sufficient evidence. Simply stated, he who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it; mere allegation is not evidence.

             True, the mere issuance of a certificate of title in the name of any person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property covered thereby may be under co-ownership with persons not named in the certificate or that the registrant may only be a trustee or that other parties may have acquired interest subsequent to the issuance of the certificate of title. However, as already stated, petitioner’s evidence in support of his claim is either insufficient or immaterial to warrant the trial court’s finding that the disputed property falls under the purview of Article 148 of the Family Code. In contrast to petitioner’s dismal failure to prove his cause, herein respondent was able to present preponderant evidence of her sole ownership. There can clearly be no co-ownership when, as here, the respondent sufficiently established that she derived the funds used to purchase the property from earnings, not only as an accountant but also as a businesswoman engaged in foreign currency trading, money lending and jewelry retain. She presented her clientele and the promissory notes evincing substantial dealings with her clients. She also presented her bank account statements and bank transactions, which reflect that she had the financial capacity to pay the purchase price of the subject property.