Law Innovations (Philippines)

Updates in Philippine law, upgrades for the Filipino lawyer

When Grandparents May Be Liable for Legal Support to Grandchildren

Posted by Oli Reyes on November 14, 2009

May grandparents be liable to provide legal support to their grandchildren even if the children already receive support from their father (who himself is the son of said grandparents)? The Supreme Court, in Spouses Lim v. Lim (G.R. No. 163209, 30 October 2009), ruled that grandparents may be so liable under the Civil Code under particular circumstances.

The case arose after the son of the petitioner-spouses saw his wife and three school-age kids leave him after he was caught “in a compromising position” with another woman. In the subsequent petition for support, it was not only the son, but also the paternal grandparents (the petitioner-spouses) who were sued. A determinative factor that led the Supreme Court to rule that even the grandparents were liable to support their grandchildren (though not to their estranged daughter-in-law) was the finding that the husband was able to provide support of only 6,000 pesos a month, which was insufficient to meet his children’s basic needs, and the fact that the wife herself was “unable to discharge her obligation to provide sufficient legal support to her children, then all school-bound.”

Some brief passages from the Court’s decision reveal the rationale behind this ruling:

Relying on provisions found in Title IX of the Civil Code, as amended, on Parental Authority, petitioners theorize that their liability is activated only upon default of parental authority, conceivably either by its termination or suspension during the children’s minority. Because at the time respondents sued for support, Cheryl and Edward exercised parental authority over their children, petitioners submit that the obligation to support the latter’s offspring ends with them.

Neither the text of the law nor the teaching of jurisprudence supports this severe constriction of the scope of familial obligation to give support. In the first place, the governing text are the relevant provisions in Title VIII of the Civil Code, as amended, on Support, not the provisions in Title IX on Parental Authority. While both areas share a common ground in that parental authority encompasses the obligation to provide legal support, they differ in other concerns including the duration of the obligation and its concurrence among relatives of differing degrees. Thus, although the obligation to provide support arising from parental authority ends upon the emancipation of the child, the same obligation arising from spousal and general familial ties ideally lasts during the obligee’s lifetime.. Also, while parental authority under Title IX (and the correlative parental rights) pertains to parents, passing to ascendants only upon its termination or suspension, the obligation to provide legal support passes on to ascendants  not only upon default of the parents but also for the latter’s inability to provide sufficient support.

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