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  • Interpretation
  • No.242
  • Date
  • 1989/06/23
  • Issue
    • The Chapter on the Family in the Civil Code prohibits bigamy. In case of violation of the said prohibitory provision, an interested party may petition the court for its annulment. However, if a second marriage was concluded after the spouse of the first marriage was forcibly separated from her husband or his wife during the civil war period and had no hope to be reunited under this drastic change of circumstances and this situation has lasted for decades, shall the spouse of the first marriage still be permitted to avail herself (or himself) of said prohibitory provisions to invalidate this putative marriage, thus depriving the innocent putative spouse of the rights and protections so provided in Article 22 of the Constitution?
  • Holding
    •        Article 985 of the Chapter on the Family in the Civil Code before the revision of June 3, 1985, provides that "Any person who has a spouse shall not marry again." Article 992 provides that "For any marriage in violation of Article 985, interested parties may bring action asking the court to invalidate the marriage. But once the relationship of an earlier marriage has ended, this request will be denied." These two articles are necessary for maintaining a monogamous society. They are not in conflict with the Constitution. However, those later marriages arising from the circumstances of significant changes in the nation which caused earlier spouses to be separated and prevented their reunion inherently are different from normal ones. For these later marriages having long time of actual cohabitation, if the above-mentioned Article 992 were applied to these later marriages, it would significantly disrupt the family life and human relations and might lead to social disorder. This would be in conflict with Article 22 of the Constitution which provides that people*s freedoms and rights shall be protected.
  • Reasoning
    •        The legislative purpose of Article 985 of the Chapter on the Family in the Civil Code before the revision of June 3, 1985, which provides that "Any person who has a spouse shall not marry again", is to reaffirm the genuine institution of monogamy. For any marriage in violation of this article, Article 992 shall apply, which provides that "For any marriage in violation of Article 985, interested parties may bring action asking the court to invalidate this marriage. But once the relationship of an earlier marriage has ended, this request will be denied." The absence of a statute of limitations on this right to bring action is not in conflict with the Constitution because allowing actions to be brought any time is necessary to maintain a monogamous society. In contrast to the revised Article 988, which renders later marriages void, the Chapter on the Family in the Civil Code before the revision only declares later marriages revocable. Therefore, later marriages are still valid unless they are invalidated by the court. Those later marriages arising from the circumstances of significant changes in the nation which caused earlier spouses to be separated and prevented their reunion, or even any contact with each other, inherently, are different from normal ones. For these later marriages having long time of actual cohabitation, if the above-mentioned Article 992 were applied, it would significantly disrupt the family life and human relations and might lead to social disorder. And this would be in conflict with Article 22 of the Constitution which provides that people*s freedoms and rights shall be protected. Therefore, according to this Court*s Interpretations Nos. 177 and 185, the petitioner of this case may request the court to retry this case. 
      
    • *Translated by Dr. Tze-Shiou Chien, Associate Research Fellow, Sun Yat-Sen Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy, Academia Sinica.
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