Dear Atty. Shalie,
My partner and I have been living together for almost ten years and we have two children, aged seven and four. I learned from my first child that my partner has been seeing a military officer, and was able to confirm later on, that the two are having an affair. Worst part, I am, myself, in the military service. While my partner and I are not married, the military officer is married and also has children with his wife. I now wish to separate from my partner, but I am worried about what will happen to my children. Must they stay with my partner or can I get custody of my children? Do I have any case against the man who broke up my family?
It is unfortunate that you experienced this domestic problem with your long-time common-law partner. As you are not married, your children, who are considered illegitimate, are automatically placed under the sole custody and parental authority of their mother, in addition, the law also provides that “no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.” If anything happens to the mother, the maternal grandparent will get custody, and if the latter is unable to take care of the children, the court shall grant parental authority to the mother’s siblings or any suitable guardian over age 21.
However, the law also places emphasis on the best interests of the child/children on matters of custody, and states that the court shall consider the best interest of the child principle in deciding who shall exercise parental authority over the children, giving paramount consideration to their material and moral welfare. While it is not easy, it is not impossible for you to still seek custody and parental authority over your children, under compelling reasons or if there is an imperative cause to show that their mother is unfit to take care of your children.
The foregoing notwithstanding, even if your children are placed under the sole custody of their mother, the same does not extinguish your parental obligations, as the father. You are still obligated to give them support, financial and otherwise. The best way in every case, is still for both parents to make an arrangement for shared custody and parental authority, absent any impelling cause, to warrant depriving a parent from exercising his authority.
Atty. Shalie Lazatin-Obinque
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