Good news for children of separated parents: a new bill, if passed, would make stricter provisions for the payment of child support.
Under Republic Act 9296 (RA 9296) or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, the amount of child support is legally determined and enforced by a court order or parenting agreement.
The new bill, House Bill 6079 (HB 6079), details penalties for any parent who is obligated to provide legal child support to the parent who has custody of the child, but refuses or fails to do so without justifiable cause. This applies when the amount of legal child support due is more than P30,000, or if the parent has been unable to provide for a period of more than six months.
It also penalizes any parent who pays less than the court-ordered or agreed amount of legal child support when the lump sum already amounts to P30,000, or if the obliged parent is unable to pay the full legal child support amount for a period of more than one year.
For the first offense, HB 6079 imposes a penalty of P25,000 or jail time of not less than six months but not more than one year, or both. That’s on top of the lump sum settlement of the total unpaid legal child support fees. For subsequent offenses, the bill ups the fine to P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one but not more than two years, plus the total unpaid amount of legal child support.
Manila Representative Rosenda Ann Ocampo,who authored the bill, says the proposed law is primarily for the children of separated parents. She says failure or refusal to pay child support fees makes the child's situation worse, especially if the custodial parent has little resources to raise the child alone. “Apart from the emotional trauma, the parent who has custody of the child is left with the difficult task of single-handedly raising the child or children,” she says in an interview with GMANetwork.com. If the bill is passed, it would “ensure that the child or children still get the best possible care” even if their parents are separated.
The Family Code obliges all parents to support all their children, legitimate or illegitimate. Articles 193 to 203 of the Family Code details what legal child support entails:
It is everything that is indispensable for food, shelter, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation in keeping with the financial capacity of the family
It is joint (whether the parents are married or not), based on the proportion of the resources
It is based on the needs of the child and the means of the parents (there are no fixed percentages or rules on how much child support will be given)
It is never final (as the situation changes, so, too will child support requirements)
Family law expert Atty. Jose Gabriel Benedicto of the law firm Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura, Sayoc & de los Angeles, explains in an article for smartparenting.com.ph that first, the paternity of the child has to be established, through a DNA test if needed. Then, he stresses, “The mother must demand for child support, and this is best done in writing, with proof that such demand was received by the father.”
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In an article for smartparenting.com.ph, Atty. Gian Navarro, who has handled family cases at Reyes Cabrera Rojas & Associates, explains why the amount of legal child support may change over time. It is determined by two factors: the needs of the child and the means of the parents. “As the saying goes, you can’t squeeze blood out of a stone. If the father is a billionaire, then asking for a six-figure monthly child support is not much. However, if he is a pauper, a monthly child support of P3,000 may be too much.”
Under current laws, custodial parents can only ask the help of the court by filing a motion to cite the obliged parent for indirect contempt, for refusal to comply with paying legal child support fees. HB 6079, however, seeks to impose fines and jail time to compel parents to fulfill their legal and financial responsibility to support their child.
Sources: November 8, 2015. “Bill criminalizes parents' failure to give legal child support” (gmanetwork.com) November 8, 2015. “Bill penalizing refusal to give child support pushed” (philstar.com)