Basic Issues in Child Custody in the Philippines

Custody of children is one of the most intense aspects in family litigation. A custody battle could be an independent case or a mere incident in an annulment/separation case. Some basic matters pertaining to child custody under Philippine laws are discussed below.

Basic Issues on Child Custody in the Philippines

In custody disputes, what is the paramount criterion?

The paramount criterion in custody disputes is the welfare and well-being of the child, or the best interest of the child. The court, in arriving at its decision as to whom custody of the minor should be given, must take into account the respective resources and social and moral situations of the contending parents. Nevertheless, this primordial rule can override the rights of one or both parents over their children.

What is the general rule as to custody over children?

The general rule is that a child under seven years of age shall not be separated from his mother, which is based on the basic need of a child for his mother’s loving care. Article 213 of the Family Code provides that “[n]o child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother, unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.” This is more pronounced in case of illegitimate children, as the law expressly provides that illegitimate children shall be under the parental authority of their mother.

Is this rule absolute?

This rule is not absolute. Even a mother may be deprived of the custody of her child who is below seven years of age for “compelling reasons.” Instances of unsuitability are neglect, abandonment, unemployment and immorality, habitual drunkenness, drug addiction, maltreatment of the child, insanity, and affliction with a communicable illness. Negligent and careless failure to perform the duties of parenthood is a significant element of abandonment, regardless of actual intention. A strong basis for a finding of the parent’s abandonment of his or her child is found in the case where the parent has left the child permanently or indefinitely in the care of others, given it to another, or surrendered it entirely.

I left my child with a relative, even signing a document to such effect. Am I barred from taking back my child?

Parental authority and responsibility are inalienable and may not be transferred or renounced except in cases authorized by law. The right attached to parental authority, being purely personal, the law allows a waiver of parental authority only in cases of adoption, guardianship and surrender to a children’s home or an orphan institution. When a parent entrusts the custody of a minor to another, such as a friend or godfather, even in a document, what is given is merely temporary custody and it does not constitute a renunciation of parental authority. Even if a definite renunciation is manifest, the law still disallows the same.

Is the court bound by such preference of a child below 7 years of age?

While such choice is given respect, the court is not bound by that choice. The court may exercise its discretion by disregarding the child’s preference should the parent chosen be found to be unfit, in which instance, custody may be given to the other parent, or even to a third person. Decisions on custody of children are always open to adjustment as the circumstances may warrant.

[See also Child Custody of the Father and Mother, Visitation Rights in the Philippines]


549 thoughts on “Basic Issues in Child Custody in the Philippines

  1. Avatarramonsd

    “A custody case could be an independent case or a mere incident in an annulment/separation cae” – can someone who has a pending custody case subsequently file a separate annulment case? Is this not “splitting the cause of action”?

    1. Avatarlucille

      magandang araw.po atty.ano pong dapat pinsan ko.para.makuha nya.anak nya wala.namang trabaho.pinsan ko po ay ofw iniwan.nya mga anak nya sa nanay nya pero kinuha po ng walang.paalam ng asawa nya.ngayon.po di pumapasok sa school 1 week na po.ano po ang pwedeng gawin ng pinsan ko

    2. AvatarSarah

      Atty, please give an advice what should i do on my case.
      i have 3 kids the elder is 8 years old and the youngest is turning 4 years old. We are not married we separated almost 5 years i have a relationship with someone who will marry me this year. the father of my children is ofw n saudi arabia. he wants us to get together again, we tried to work our relationship back last september 2014 before i found my fiancé my present man. but then i find out that he is just playing game he wasn’t serious so i decided to break our relationship again. and last year i was pregnant with my fiancée but sad to know that my baby is died right away after giving birth my fiancé is also ofw but then the father of my 3 kids is in the philippines last december 2016 until february he spend time together with my kids and now he grabbed the chances he want us to get together again as he desire it ever since. my fiancée is fighting for his right he will never letting me go and we will get married soon this year. the father of my children is upset fraustrated and now he want us to settle down regarding the 3 childrens support he want to take away my 3 children and bring them to their place and for me i don’t want because i don’t trust them taking care of them it’s ok if they will spend time vacation there but living there with them is no good result because i tried last year and observed the result the health of my kids is not good and my kids told me that no one will take care of them there their uncle is living them and just left them food in the table and be home night when his mothers home too. When he find out that we will get married he will take the 3 kids. what is the right thing to do regarding for my 3 kids custody? thank you atty. looking forward for your advice


    3. AvatarAtty. Pulpol

      ok ganito ang gawin nyo, pumunta muna kayo sa barangay, kung hindi ito maayos kumuha kayo nang abogado para kumunsulta. at pag katapos ay mag sulat kayo sa asawa na magkakaroon ng legal na demandahan kung hindi siya magko-comply, at kung walang sagot pwede na kayong mag tungo sa piskal para sa paunang meeting at pag d naayos sa korte na kayo maghaharap.

      kung gusto mo naman ng madali kidnapin mo ang mga taong mahalaga sa kanya at sbhn mo na palit ulo. yun, ewan ko na lng kung di pa ibigay yan,

    4. AvatarJanneth

      Attorney, I ask something about a child 8 yrs old age. The father has no given financial support for that longer years..I’m a single mother..what is the case for this kind of problem? Because he’s said he has still loans that only less receive after his salary? What will I do now? Can just give me legal advice attorney?

    5. AvatarJhen

      Hi atty. Pwede nyo po ba ako advice about sa custody ng anak ko actually since birth ako naman talaga nag alaga nag palaki emotionally physically mentally at financially ako naman talaga gumagawa para sa mga anak ko kasi mahalaga sila sa akin kaya lahat ginagawa ko para sa kanila.. separated po ako sa tatay ng mga anak ko at since seperated ako ni minsan hindi nya po kinakamusta or dalawin mga bata sa school pero bakit po ganun hirapan po ako kunin yung consent nya para sa 13yrs old ko na anak na gusto ko po isama sa ibang bansa bakit napakahirap po yun gawin.. at at pwede po ba ako mag file ng custody na sa akin nalang po talaga yung custody ng anak ko? Paano po first step na dapat po gawin? Please help nyo po ako. Salamat po

    6. AvatarRaina

      Attorney.. gusto ko po Sana mg file ng petition of support ung tatay ng anak ko sa una kso Sabi nya po wala po syang trabaho.paano po ba gagawin ko?

    7. AvatarCedric

      Good po atty.
      Gusto ko lang po malaman kung ano po ang pwedi gawin o mga papers na kailngan upang “makapag aral sa switzerland ang aking kapatid na 7 years old” nasa Switzerland na po ang aking ama at nandito sa Pilipinas ang aking ina , anulled na po ang kasal nila at kasal na sa switzzerland ang aking ama at nais nya po sana na makapagaral doon ang aming bunso, payag naman po ang aking ina na makapag aral ang aking kapatid dun.. gusto lang po namen malaman kung anu ano ang mga papeles na dapat ihanda upang maisakatuparan ito.. maraming salamat po

    8. AvatarLLB-3

      I do believe n klangan nyo prin ng written consent from your mom since ung kpatid mu is still minor and s DSWD ata ung consent mngagaling or in the presence of DSWD…secondly of course nka petition b sya from your father or pupunta sya ng switzerland for a student visa?or a visit visa must be needed po…..or the better thing to do is consult a legal expert on the matter at hand.

    9. AvatarJanine

      Hello po attorney sana po matulungan niyo po ako dito
      May anak po ako dalawa ang eldest ko po ay kababago nag 7 nong march at youngest ko po ay 4 kinuha po nang aking asawa nang walang paalam sa sister ko po na pinag bilinan ko habang mag ttrabaho ako abroad naghiwalay po kami nang partner ko dahil sa pambugbug sakin at pina blotter kopo cya sa barangay namin pero nang mag abroad na po ako ay kinuha po nang asawa ko ang mga ank ko at walang paalam na sinama patungo sa lugar nila sa probinsya ngayon po sa kasamaang palad siya po ay namatay. Tanong ko lang po paano ko makuha at mailipat ang anak ko sa aking sister po kasi wala po akong ina at mga kapatid ang tinuring ko kapatid ay cousin ko po na nagsama mula pa po pagkabata dahil nga po pareho kaming walang ina sa buhay. Ano mo bang dapat gawin para makuha ko ang mga anak ko sa kapatid nang asawa ko po. I mean paano makuha nang sister ko po ang mga anak ko habang nasa abroad pa po ako at hindi pa po makakauwi sana po matulungan niyo ako dito. At nang pinag babantaan po ako nang pamilya nang asawa ko po na patayin natakot lang po ako sa mga anak ko po kung anong pwedi nilang gawin.
      God bless po and more power.

    10. AvatarLovely

      Gud pm po attorney. Nais q LNG po mlaman kung ano po Ang dpat Gwin. May kaibigan po ako (boy) Na may problema po SA dti nyang kinakasama. Nais po Kz kunin ng nanay Ang anak nya. 7 yrs old Na po Ang bta. Na NSA custody po Na tatay ngayon. Wla pong work Ang nanay at me kinakasama Na rin ngayon at may anak Na rin sila ng bgo nyang ka live in. Ung Fren q po may trabaho po sya. Isa po syang family driver SA Manila. Ngayon po pinag babantaan po Ang Fren q ng dti nyang kinakasama Na pag di ibigay SA kanya Ang bta eh iLalagay raw po nya Kay tulfo Ang kaso ng SA gnun mkuha nya ng tuluyang Ang bta at ma Obliga suportahan ito. SV Pa po ng nanay ng bta Na Pag di raw sya sumoporta SA bta eh ipapakulong daw po ung Fren q. Salamat po…
      Sna mtugunan Nyo agad Ang hinaing Na ito..
      God Bless po SA lhat.

    11. AvatarLLB-3

      kaibigan mu nga lng ba uing boy? or ikaw ang knyang KAIBIGAN?anyway family matter po sya and your the third party so remove your interest on the issue npapaghalataan ka ei…so you mean to say n nde obligado ung boy n suportahan ang anak?

    12. Avatardiego

      gud pm po atty..

      my anak po aq 6 months old gz2 na nmin mg hiwalay ksu d kme kasal @ ung bata d q pwd iiwan sa nanay kc wla nmn ciang trbho.tzka hnd safe ung bahay na nla sa province pra matirahan.pwd q po ba idaan sa korte 2?@ qng skali my chance po ba aq na manalo qng skali manalo aq?tzka pwd q sbhan sa korte ng ksakit ng nyomonia ung bata dhil sa mdyo nag babaya?hnd na po xa breastfeed.

    13. AvatarRecaella

      What if malayo acoe as the mother pwede coe ba sa parents coe ibagay yung custody ng anak coe para d makuha ng ex live in partner coe???

    14. AvatarJermaine

      Magandang araw po atty. Itatanong ko lang po sana kung anong magandang gawing hakbang kung aalis na po kami ng 2months old baby ko sa puder ng father nya na ksama family nya. Kung ano-ano nlng po kc sinasabi sken ng father nya. Then wala po kaming parehas na work. Sa mother nya lng kami umaasa ng needs ng baby nmin. Gusto ko na po sanang bumalik sa mother ko then mag aapply na po ako ng work kaya lang po baka hindi kami paalisin ng father ng baby ko. Ano po ba pwede kong gawin.? Salamat po

    15. AvatarIza iza

      Good pm po..gusto q lng po sna magtanung kung anu po ba tlga ang 22ong batas tungkol sa child custody…at san papo ba nssakop ang anak q 7years and 4 months n po sya…mraming slmat po..sna po msagot nyu po ung tanong q ..gs2 q po tlga malaman kung may laban po ako pra mkuha ung anak q sa poder ng ex live in partner q at sa nanay nya n plit pinagkakait ung anak q sakin…tnx po and godbless

  2. Atty. FredAtty. Fred Post author

    ramonsd, there’s no prohibition against the proper party to file a petition for annulment notwithstanding the pendency of a petition for custody. The certification against forum shopping in the subsequent petition for annulment would most probably state the pending custody proceedings, and the latter would most probably be consolidated with the subsequent petition for annulment. I suggest you pursue to dissect this matter, with the help of other students of law, at the Bar Exams Forum.

    1. AvatarKimura

      we would like to talk to you and have some advise regarding this matter.
      can we have your contact number pls .
      It would be an honor to have you by our side in our battle.

    2. AvatarJm

      Hello Atty,
      I need your advise. I have my son with me here in US. I brought him with me when je was 7. We are from Philippines. His father was not in the pic since after he turn 6 years old. My problem is, I just got my naturalization and wanted to apply for US passport. However, they can’t issue my son a passport because they need his father’s consent. How can I obtain my son’s passport without his father’s consent since he is nowhere to be found? I tried to communicate with him once through facebook but he blocked me. I need your advice atty.

    3. AvatarMaria

      Hello po atty. Gusto ko po sana hingi ng advice gusto ko po sana mgfile ng custody sa baby ko d po kmi kasal pero ung father po d pa po annulled matagal na po nafile annulment nila ng asawa nya bago pa kmi mgkakilala pero d na po nila na ff up gang sa d na po lumabas annulment nila ngayon po hiwalay na po kmi at d na talaga mgkasundo gusto ko na po kc isama ang anak ko dto sa ibang bansa kung san ako ngtatrabaho pero ayaw po nya at mgharap nlng daw po kmi sa korte ano po ba maganda gawin? Tinatakot po nya ako na iprove nya daw po sa korte na immoral ako dahil may iba na po at ayaw ko na sya balikan pero d po kmi kasal. Salamat po

    4. AvatarRUBY

      Hi atty. Nais ko lng po humingi ng advice kung ano po ang pwede kong gawin upang makasama ko ulit ang mga anak ko. 8yrs. po kaming nagkasama ng tatay ng mga anak ko ni ko sya natutunang mahalin, awa lng po ang nararamdaman ko sa kanya. Nagkaroon po kami ng dalawang anak 10yrs old at 6yrs old na cla ngayon. Akala ko po noong una matutunan ko lng syang mahalin, nagkaroon kami ng bahay at stable business ng dahil sa tulong ng aking ina. Ang akala ko sapat na sa akin kung ano ang meron ako, pero narealize ko na hindi nga talaga ako masaya sa kinakasama ko, dahil d ko inaasahan na magkagusto pa ako sa ibang lalaki na kung tutuusin may asawa na ako. D ko po inaasahan sa buhay ko na darating sa buhay ko ang ganitong sitwasyon. Pero dahil may asawa na ako pinipigilan ko po ang sarili ko na madala ako sa damdamin ko, hanggang nag desisyon ako sa asawa ko na makikipaghiwalay na lng ako sa kanya dahil gusto ko ng space sa sarili ko, dahil alam ko na makasalanan ang magmahal na alam kong commited na ako. Kinakausap ko po sya ng maayos pero d sya pumayag hanggang dumating kami sa punto na nag aaway kami dahil sa ayokong magpagamit sa kanya. Lagi nya po akong ginagamitan ng baril, tinatakot nyapo ako sa baril nya pag gusto nya akong gamitin. pinipilit nya po akong gamitin hanggang sa nagka problema ang aking ….3 beses po ako lumapit ng ob gyne, hanggang sa kinausap ng ob gyne ang asawa ko naSir,” hindi dapat pilitin ang asawa na gamitin kung ayaw magpagamit dahil may karapatan din kaming umayaw. Sa gabing iyon, sinabihan nya ako na d pa matatapos ang taong ito (it was Dec.19) mamatay tayong dalawa kaysa mapunta ka sa ibang lalaki. kaya nag decide akong lumayas dahil sa sobrang takot ko, iniwan ko po ang mga anak ko dahil natatakot po ako sa mga banta niya sa akin, iniwan ko rin po ang mga anak ko ngdahil sa mga magulang kodahil sa sobrang mahal ng mga magulang ko ang mga anak ko. Yan po ang pinakamalaking pinagsisihan ko sa buhay ko ang iniwan ko ang mga anak ko dahil sa takot at sa mga magulang ko. Almost 3 yrs na po hindi ko nakikita ang mga anak ko dahil galit po lahat pamilya ko sa akin dahil lumayas daw ako ng hindi binitbit ang mga anak ko. Tanggap ko po ang pagkakasala ko pero isa din akong ina sa mga anak ko, gusto ko ring makasama ang mga anak ko. Atty. pls humihingi po ako ng tulong sa inyo kung ano po ang pwede kong gawin ng makasama ko rin ang mga anak ko. May kinakasama na po ako ngayon atty.

    5. AvatarMacy

      Hindi kayo kasal? Wag kang matakot, pwede mong ilabas ng bansa ang anak mo. Kuha ka lng ng DSWD Clearance (kung menor de edad) para sa anak mo. Kailangan mo kumuha ng Cenomar (Certificate of No Marriage) sa NSO, to prove na di kayo kasal ng tatay. Im not a lawyer but i had that same case as you before. Good thing na di kayo kasal, hindi mo na kailangan humingi ng consent sa tatay ng anak mo para maikuha ng passport o travel clearance (given na di talaga kayo kasal ha).

  3. Avatarramonsd

    Sec. 7 of A.M. No. 03-04-04 on THE RULE ON CUSTODY OF MINORS gives respondent 5 days from personal service of summons and a copy of petition within which to reply. A RTC (Family Court) where one such custody petition was filed gave respondent 15 days within which to do so.

    I was wondering about the discrepancy and whether or not it is merely too trivial a detail to even consider. I am of the position that the spirit of the SC rule recognizes that child custody proceedings are impressed with more urgency compared to other civil proceedings. That is why shorter compliance periods were specified.

    Is AM No. 03-04-04 still applicable?

  4. Avatarbigfatmama

    please help me…
    my cousin had a live-in partner, they separated last year.
    they had a daughter, she’s 3yrs old now.
    the child used my cousin’s surname.
    the mother had another baby from another man that left her just before she gave birth last month.
    she’s been demanding child support.
    it worries him because the support might not be given fully to his daughter.
    she has no job, no source of income.
    and is facing several theft charges from her 3 previous landlords.
    are these considered “compelling reasons” for her to be deprived of the child’s custody?
    and is my cousin entitled for his daughter’s custody?

    1. AvatarLLB-3

      A far as the law dictates, your cousin is obliged to give financial support to his daughter regardless if the mom already has a family of her own,the fact is that its not your concern where the financial support would go as long as your paying the support….She as the mom may use it to whatever she wants to use it as long as its for the benefits of the daughter..Give her a chance to be a mother, do not monitor her that much.

  5. Atty. FredAtty. Fred Post author

    bigfatmama, my dilemma is this – I’d end up giving a legal advice on the matter if I proceed to answer your question. As repeated countless of times in this Forum, we’re prohibited from giving any legal advice. There are other circumstances that should be considered, and these are matters that are properly within the competence of your retained counsel. I hope you understand.

    1. Avatarharold

      Gud day po..,

      Tanong ko lang po kung paano ko po makuha ang anak ko,6yrs old na po sya namatay po ang aking asawa nung feb,dhl po sa leukemia,ung anak ko po nasa magulang ng aking asawa,hnd po kami kasal ng asawa ko,ano pong paraan pano ko po makuha ang anak ko?ano po ang mga kailangan ko gawin?
      Hnd ko po lam ang gagawin ko,sana po mabigyan nyo po ako ng aking gagawin,maraming salamat po..

    2. Avatarjoanalyn

      punta ka po s dswd walang karapatan ang inyong beynan sa anak mo dahil una patay n ang tatay ng anak mo mas papaburan ka ng dwsd dahil minor p ang iyong anak yun lng po..pag hindi binigay sau pwde mo cla kasohan ng kidnaping dahil tinatago sayo ang anak mo..

    3. Avatarirene

      helo po..magtatanong po sana ako kasi may anak ako isa illigitimate po sya tapos ngayon gusto ko mag asawa nang canadian ano po bang dapat gawin kasi gusto nang fiancee ko na doon kami sa canada tumira,ano po bang mga papers na kailangan ko kasi dadalhin ko yung anak ko don..

    4. AvatarMaricon

      Hi po attorney!..OFW po ako,im seeking po ur attention to help me get my children.dalawang babae po ang mga anak ko at pareho po silang nasa ama nila. Nagfile po ako ng COSTUDY OF CHILDREN last 2014 pero sa kasamaang palad,pinili at binigay ng korte ang costudy ng mga anak ko s tatay nila. Isa pong lasinggero asawa ko po,minsan my trabaho madalas po wala. Nagdedepende lng po siya sa parents niya para mabuhay mga anak ko. Ano po bang dapat kong gawin? Do advice me po! Thank you!

  6. Avatarryemon7650

    Just an inquiry. I’m quite confused with this line “The general rule is that a child under seven years of age shall not be separated from his mother, which is based on the basic need of a child for his mother’s loving care.”. Now, does it have to be that me and my wife should be legally separated for this general rule to apply? Or even if our marriage still exists, this general rule still applies? thanks ahead.

    1. AvatarChris

      I hear if married father has right if I belive so and its explained by other lawyer that seen in couet they will not desperate but that’s if married ..I’m on this issue also.

  7. AvatarGRAZIELLA

    Hello Atty! My sister is working in Italy as domestic helper.Her 3 children are left under the custody of the father. The husband has been jobless since they got married. The couple is also undergoing marital problems. My sister wants to file custody for her children because she is also experiencing emotional blackmail from his husband.Will she get the custody even if she is not physically present to give maternal love? Does she have the right to choose who will take care of her children, if ever she gets the custody. Her eldest child is now 8 years old, but she was born before they got married, and application for legitimation has not yet been applied.please help her. Is it also possible to file for the case even she´s abroad?

  8. Avatarbellatrix18

    My husband has a 2-yr old illegitimate son under his custody. The boy’s mother acquiesced since she’s unemployed and with 3 elder children from past relationships. I plan to adopt him. How do we go with it? I very much anticipate your reply. Thank you so much.

  9. Avatarzweela

    Hi I have a Brother he’s 22 years old and he is married but he separated with his wife because he found out that his wife had another man. They have a son and its 2 years old now and i want to know if it would be possible that my brother could have the custody of the child. What are the chances that he can have the custody of his child in this kind of situation?

    If we go to court do we have a chance in getting the child?
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  10. Avataraileen1980

    hi, please give me advice… my brother is 26 yrs old now and he have 2 daughters age 5 and 4, both use my brothers last name even he did not marry the mother of the child… before the mother and the kids live in my parents house with my brother, but when my brother left to do apprentice in the inter island ship, the mother left the house and take the kids with her… we went to dswd to get the custody because the mother is having an affair to a married man and she just left the kids to her parents, the kida said they don’t eat breakfast, only their grandfather because he is the one working… then the dswd turn over the kids to us because of immorality but then they borrowed the kids and did not return so when my brother came back after his apprentice he went their to get the kids…. we have the kids in my parents house, they both go to school to a day care center and have classes in the church next to our house every saturday and sunday… my brother is in manila now and applying for his visa to work abroad and very bothered because the other day the dswd called and told my sister to bring the kids with her to meet the mother in their office… the mother make a drama there and said that we didn’t let her see her kids and she want the custody… the dswd gave her the custody because of the law. we are thinking about the kids future, what will they be when they grow up… the mother is a GRO when my brother met her, now she is still doing it… what advice can you give me? do we need to go to court to get the custody? thanks in advance


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