I have been living with my boyfriend, who is a married man, and we have been blessed with a child. My boyfriend recognized our child as his, and has been providing sufficient support for our well-being.
Recently, however, my boyfriend returned to live with his wife, and he threatened to bring our child, who is still four years old, to live with him and his wife. He said our child has been accepted by his legal family, and it is only proper for him to take custody over our child because he has been providing financial support as his father. Is this a valid ground for him to have custody over our child?
Pursuant to the natural right and duty of parents over the person and property of their unemancipated children, parental authority and responsibility shall include the caring for and rearing them for civic consciousness and efficiency and the development of their moral, mental and physical character and well-being. Parental authority and responsibility may not be renounced or transferred except in the cases authorized by law (Articles 209-210, Family Code of the Philippines).
In the case of Daisie T. David vs. Court of Appeals, et al. (G.R. No. 111180,16 November 1995), the Supreme Court, speaking through Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, clarified that an illegitimate child is under the parental authority of his or her mother, who, as a consequence of such authority, is entitled to have custody of the child. Hence:
“In the case at bar, Christopher J. is an illegitimate child since at the time of his conception, his father, private respondent Ramon R. Villar, was married to another woman other than the child’s mother. As such, pursuant to Art. 176 of the Family Code, Christopher J. is under the parental authority of his mother, the herein petitioner, who, as a consequence of such authority, is entitled to have custody of him. Since, admittedly, petitioner has been deprived of her rightful custody of her child by private respondent, she is entitled to issuance of the writ of habeas corpus.
Indeed, Rule 1021 §1 makes no distinction between the case of a mother who is separated from her husband and is entitled to the custody of her child and that of a mother of an illegitimate child who, by law, is vested with sole parental authority, but is deprived of her rightful custody of her child.
The fact that private respondent has recognized the minor child may be a ground for ordering him to give support to the latter, but not for giving him custody of the child. Under Art. 213 of the Family Code, “no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.”
Nor is the fact that private respondent is well-off a reason for depriving petitioner of the custody of her children, especially considering that she has been able to rear and support them on her own since they were born.
Petitioner is a market vendor earning from P2,000 to P3,000 per month in 1993 when the RTC [Regional Trial Court] decision was rendered. She augments her income by working as secretary at the Computer System Specialist, Inc. earning a monthly income of P4,500.00. She has an arrangement with her employer so that she can personally attend to her children. She works up to 8:00 o’clock in the evening to make up for time lost during the day. That she receives help from her parents and sister for the support of the three children is not a point against her. Cooperation, compassion, love and concern for every member of the family are characteristics of the close family ties that bind the Filipino family and have made it what it is.
Daisie and her children may not be enjoying a life of affluence that private respondent promises if the child lives with him. It is enough, however, that petitioner is earning a decent living and is able to support her children according to her means.”
From the foregoing, it is clear that you, as the mother of your illegitimate and minor child, are his or her natural guardian and you are duty-bound and entitled to keep him or her in your custody and company.
Thus, the fact that your boyfriend has recognized the minor child may be a ground for ordering him to give support to the latter, but not for giving him custody of the child. Under Article 213 of the Family Code, “no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.”
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org