Perhaps one of the most favorite topics of neighborhood Maritesses is child support (well, second only to who’s not paying his or her growing pa-lista at the sari-sari store). And why not? A couple may break off their relationship very quietly but the moment one parent (most of the time, the father) fails to provide for the children’s needs, the other parent (most of the time, the mother) will most definitely start talking until he or she gets the attention of the estranged party. Such talks usually escalate to become trending social media posts before it is properly dealt with by both parties (if and when they do). Other times, and only when they can afford it, the parents seek the advice of a legal counsel or a family lawyer.
What does it truly mean to be part of a broken family and how is the sensitive yet important matter of child support handled when this happens?
Whether the parents are married or not, the moment one parent leaves the home (or was never present to begin with), a broken family or separated family is, ironically, formed. This may include:
- The parents live separately because of marital disputes.
- The children shuttle from one parent’s house to the other every now and then.
- The children are housed and cared for by grandparents and other relatives because their parents could not take care of them.
The parent or guardian who lives with and performs parental duties for the children is called the custodial parent. The parent who is absent is the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent also does not have parental authority over the child.
If the parents are married, both of them have custodial authority over their children until one (or both) of them breaks away from the marriage and becomes the absentee parent. A woman who gives birth to a child but is not married to the child’s father has automatic custody over their children. If the father wishes to have custody over his children, he may request for this in court.
The Family Code defines child support as everything indispensable for the sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the family.
This means that parents are obligated by law to provide for the basic needs of their children according to their capacity to earn. In the Philippines, parents must provide for their children who are below 18 years old (considered minor and unable to earn their own keep). Should the child opt to continue studying even after he has reached the age of 18, his or her parents are still required by law to provide support until he finishes his studies.
Who should pay for child support?
Both parents are obligated to provide child support. If both parents are gainfully employed, both should be able to give their share for their child’s basic and essential needs. If the parents are separated, the non-custodial parent gives his or her share of financial support to the custodial parent.
How does a custodial parent file a claim for child support?
In a perfect world, the parents will discuss this among themselves until they arrive at an agreement as to the amount and frequency of financial support for their child. And they will both live up to their commitment until their child reaches the age of emancipation and is eventually able to provide for his own needs.
This is not always the case, though. And that is why we see ex-couples bashing each other online and fighting each other in courts of law (or just in the streets and in some other public place when rhyme and reason lose escape them).
If both parties have become hostile toward each other, here’s what Yap Kung Ching and Associates Law suggests they do:
- The custodial parent must prove that the non-custodial parent is related to the child.
- In case of disputes, a DNA test should be made possible to establish kinship.
- The custodial parent may request for child support after numbers 1 and or 2 have been established. Requesting for child support must be recorded as a hard copy, with verification that the non-custodial parent received the demand.
- In case the non-custodial parent fails to pay the agreed child support, the custodial parent may pursue a case for child support.
It would be good for both parties if they have a family lawyer. In case they don’t, they can always seek the assistance of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in their area.
How much child support should the custodial parent demand?
There are no fixed rates for child support. This will depend on the non-custodial parent’s means and the child’s needs (as some children may need additional support in case he or she has a medical condition, etc.). These shall be determined by the court. At this point, it is safe to say that a custodial parent cannot demand the non-custodial parent to provide a monthly child support of Php 20,000.00 if the non-custodial parent is only earning minimum wage rates.
What must be done if the non-custodial parent fails or neglects to pay the agreed upon child support?
The custodial parent may sue for child support.
Taking the matter to court is a laborious and expensive process. If you are not financially ready to take on the expenses of a full-blown court case, you may seek the assistance of a PAO lawyer. This could take months and months and could be taxing to both parties, but most especially, to the child. Always seek the advice of your loved ones before going to the courts. And always, put more effort in reaching out to the father or mother of your child and try your very best to settle matters on your own.