What Single Moms Should Know About Child Custody and Support

Parenting is tough enough, but undertaking it alone because of some reason or other? Tougher. We salute all moms out there who are doing a good job raising their kiddos without the help of a partner. And to help out a bit, here are some things single moms out there should know about child custody and securing child support.

Who has custody of the child when the parents are separated or not married?

According to Article 176 of the Philippine Family Code, a child is considered illegitimate if the child is born out of wedlock, and in such cases, the parental authority and custody of the child fall on the mother. At the same time, parental authority covers the right and duty of a parent to bring up the minor (below 18 years old), and cannot be renounced or transferred except in cases as allowed by the law under Article 210 of the Family Code.

This means that single mothers have the sole parental authority over her child. Nevertheless, the child’s father cannot be deprived of his parental rights to have access to the child if ever he desires to exercise it. This can also include temporary custody of the child.

However, in the case of married couples, both the father and mother jointly exercise parental authority (and accordingly, joint custody) of the child. In case of any disagreement between the spouses, the father’s decision will prevail unless a judicial order says otherwise, as stated in Article 211 of the Family Code.

In cases wherein the marriage is terminated by annulment or nullity decree, the Family Code as stated in Articles 102 (6) and 129 (9) presumes that any child aged 7 years old and below is deemed to choose the mother unless the court decides otherwise.

What can single mothers demand as child support from the child’s father?

Under Articles 193 to 203 of the Family Code, child support has the following basic principles:

  • It is everything indispensable for food, shelter, clothing, medical attendance, education, and transportation in keeping with the financial capacity of the family. The education referred includes schooling or training for a profession, trade or vocation, even beyond the age of majority. And transportation includes expenses going to and from school or place of work.
  • It is joint (whether married or not) and will be taken from the absolute community or conjugal property. The same also applies to the provision of the child support of one spouse by a previous marriage or partnership.
  • It is in proportion to the resources and means of the parent and the needs of the child. At the same time, it can be reduced or increased proportionately, based on the reduction or increase of the parent’s resources and means, or on the reduction or increase of the child’s needs. Hence, it is never final.

It must also be noted if the child’s father does not have the means nor capacity to find sufficient child support, then the obligation can pass to his family — including his parents (the child’s grandparents) if they have the means to do so.

How can single mothers demand child support?

Some general guidelines in filing for child support include:

  1. If the single mother does not have the financial capacity to pay for court fees, she can seek the assistance from the Public Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
  2. A Protection Order will then be issued to protect the woman and her child from violence and economic abuse. Custody of the child will then automatically be given to the mother.
  3. Cases for child support are filed in the Regional Trial Courts, which will also serve as Family Courts for hearing such cases.

What can a single mother do if her child is taken away from her without her consent?

In such cases, the single mother can file a civil and/or criminal case under Republic Act No. 90262, or “The Anti-Violence Act Against Women and Children.” Another option is for the mother to file kidnapping charges under the Revised Penal Code.

References: The Family Code of the Philippines, CrowdH News, Attorneys of the Philippines

*Originally published in momcenter.com.ph

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