A common love story scenario usually occurs between two people who work and spend too much time together. In this case, a married businessman in Angeles City had an illicit relationship with his secretary. Their union resulted in three children, a son and two daughters.
Their relationship was not a secret. The businessman’s wife was aware of her husband’s extramarital activities as the secretary even brought their son to the legitimate family’s house to introduce him to the legal wife. After this, all three illegitimate children were accepted by the legal family and freely brought to the businessman’s house.
One summer, the businessman asked the secretary if he could take their son to Boracay with his legitimate family. The secretary agreed. After the trip however, the businessman refused to give back their son and even enrolled him in a school for the upcoming school year. The secretary filed a habeas corpus case to get her son back. The Regional Trial Court granted custody of the minor to his natural mother, the secretary, and ordered the businessman to give a monthly support of P3,000 for the support of his illegitimate children.
The Court of Appeals (CA) reversed the decision, holding that since the businessman was more financially well off than the secretary, it was in the best interest of the son to remain under the custody of his father.
The Supreme Court overturned the CA, reiterating 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.
The fact that the businessman is well-off is not a reason for depriving the [secretary]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 . . . [The mother] 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 [the mother]is earning a decent living and is able to support her children according to her means.
The Court further reminded that the recognition of an illegitimate child may be a ground for ordering the father to give support to the child, but not for granting him custody of the child.
[The businessman] observed his son “to be physically weak and pale because of malnutrition and deprivation of the luxury and amenities he was accustomed to when in the former custody of the [the businessman].” He prayed that he be given the custody of the child so that he can provide him with the “proper care and education…”
[He] has expressed willingness to support the minor child. The order for payment of allowance need not be conditioned on the grant to him of custody of the child. Under Art. 204 of the Family Code, a person obliged to give support can fulfill his obligation either by paying the allowance fixed by the court or by receiving and maintaining in the family dwelling the person who is entitled to support unless, in the latter case, there is a ‘moral or legal obstacle thereto’… Indeed, if private respondent loves his child, he should not condition the grant of support for him on the award of his custody to him (David v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 111180, 16 November 1995, J. Mendoza).