1. What is the effect of the declaration of nullity of a couple's marriage on the legitimacy of their child? Our Family Code states that for a marriage to be valid, it must comply with both the essential and formal requisites of marriage, that is:
a. Legal capacity of the contracting parties; b. Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer; c. Authority of the solemnizing officer; d. A valid marriage license; and e. A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.
The absence of any of these requisites will make the marriage void from the beginning, and unfortunately, any child born during a void marriage is deemed an illegitimate child. Thus, in the case of James Yap and Kris Aquino whose marriage was declared null because their wedding was celebrated by someone who no longer had a license or authority to solemnize marriages, their marriage is considered void from the beginning -- it's as if they were never married at all. Thus, their child becomes illegitimate. However, since he is the acknowledged natural child of James Yap, Bimby is still entitled to carry his father’s surname, and he is also entitled to receive financial and emotional support from his father.
2. Who exercises parental authority over an illegitimate child? Art. 176 of the Family Code provides that illegitimate children shall be under the parental authority of the mother. However, this does not mean that the father has no rights over his illegitimate children. The Supreme Court has held that a biological father shall always have a right to see his children and to participate in their upbringing, due to “the constitutionally protected inherent and natural right of parents over their children. Even when the parents are estranged and their affection for each other is lost, their attachment to and feeling for their offspring remain unchanged. Neither the law nor the courts allow this affinity to suffer...” The Court also made it clear that “Article 49 of the Family Code provides for appropriate visitation rights to parents who are not given custody of their children.”
3. Can a mother take away a father’s right to see his child? In every case involving a child, whether it is about custody, support, or visitation rights, the welfare and best interest of the child is always the primary concern. If it can be proven in court that the father should no longer be allowed to see the child for the latter’s protection and best interest, then the court may issue an order preventing the father from seeing or contacting his child.
However, the Supreme Court has held that to deprive a father of the right to see his child, the grounds must be serious, must be real, and not merely “the product of (an) unfounded imagination”. Similarly, the Court rules that even if the father is a gambler and womanizer, this does not mean that he would be a bad or immoral influence on the child.