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Rule on alienation of conjugal property without the consent of other spouse


In Cueno vs. Bautista, GR 246445, March 2, 2021, the Court En Banc, through Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao, held that when both the marriage and the alienation of conjugal property without the consent of the other spouse transpired before the effectivity of the Family Code of the Philippines, that is, Aug. 3, 1988, the alienation is not void but merely voidable.


On the other hand, if the marriage and the alienation of community property happened during the effectivity of the said Code, then the transaction is considered void, consistent with the provisions of Articles 96 and 124 of the same Code.


Confusion arose as to what rule governs the property relations of spouses when their marriage happened during the effectivity of the New Civil Code (Aug. 30, 1950 up to Aug. 2, 1988), but the sale or alienation happened during the effectivity of the Family Code (Aug. 3, 1988 and onwards).


However, in the recent case of Belinda Alexander v. Spouses Hilaria (GR 256141, July 19, 2022), penned by Associate Justice Mario V. Lopez, the Supreme Court En Banc clarified this confusion by setting the applicable laws and jurisprudence as follows:


"Thus, it is an opportune time for the Court to clarify any confusion besetting the applicable laws and jurisprudence in transactions involving alienation or encumbrance of conjugal properties, without consent of the other spouse, which is determinative of the remedies available to the aggrieved parties and the prescriptive period of actions. At this juncture, the Court holds that more than the date of the marriage of the spouses, the applicable law must be reckoned on the date of the alienation or encumbrance of the conjugal property made without the consent of the other spouse, to wit:


"1. The alienation or encumbrance of the conjugal property, without the wife's consent, made before the effectivity of the Family Code, is not void but merely voidable. The applicable laws are Articles 166 and 173 of the Civil Code. The wife may file an action for annulment of contract within 10 years from the transaction; and


"2. The alienation or encumbrance of the conjugal property, without the authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse, made after the effectivity of the Family Code is void. The applicable law is Article 124 of the Family Code without prejudice to vested rights in the property acquired before August 3, 1988. Unless the transaction is accepted by the non-consenting spouse or is authorized by the court, an action for declaration of nullity of the contract may be filed before the continuing offer on the part of the consenting spouse and the third person becomes ineffective."


Clearly, the date of alienation or sale of conjugal property without the other spouse's consent is material in determining the applicable law.

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