My wife left our family residence one year ago. Last month, I received a call from her asking for support because she lost her job. I refused because she was the one who left our house and we don’t have a child so I don’t have an obligation to give support. Is my reasoning correct?
Family relation creates legal rights and obligations between and among the members of the family. One of the legal rights and obligations arising from family ties is support, which comprises everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation (Art. 194, Family Code). As provided by law, the following persons are obliged to support each other:
(2)Legitimate ascendants and descendants;
(3)Parents and their legitimate children, and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter;
(4)Parents and their illegitimate children and the legitimate and illegitimate children of the latter; and
(5)Legitimate brothers and sisters, whether of the full or half-blood (Art. 195, Ibid).
It is clear from the above provision of law that support between spouses is separate from support between parent and child. It is an independent legal right that exists on its own, and which the person obliged to give support is mandated to fulfill. Thus, even though a couple has no child, they are still obliged to support each other. Yet, the right to receive support has limitations, and it may be lost in certain instances.
One instance where the right to support is lost is when a spouse leaves the conjugal home or refuses to live therein, without just cause (Art. 100, Id.). Under this law, there are two requisites before the right to support may be withdrawn under this provision of law, to wit: desertion or refusal to live in the family home, and there is no just cause for such action. The term just cause refers to a reasonable and lawful ground for action. It is a standard of reasonableness used to evaluate a person’s actions in a given set of circumstances (http://legal dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/just+cause). As emphasized by Prof. Santa Maria, the mere fact of separating from the family home is not a reason to withdraw the right to support unless there is evidence of any fault or guilt on the spouse who leaves (Persons and Family Relations Law, p. 451 citing Sumulong vs. Cembrano, 51 Phil. 719).
Applying the foregoing to your case, the fact that you and your wife have no child, and that she left the house you live in do not automatically disqualify her from receiving support. Your obligation to support subsists unless you can show that she left your house and refused to live there without just cause.
Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if facts are changed or elaborated.
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