We’ve seen it in countless television dramas and even in our own families: talks of illegitimate children. While several pop culture portrayals show that having a child outside of marriage is something out of the norm and most of the time problematic, Philippine laws give children outside marriage the rightful protection.
After all, whether the child was conceived before marriage (for live-in partners), out of wedlock, or outside of marriage (if the parent is legally married to somebody else), it is never the child’s fault.
The distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy has long been a topic of interest and debate. The Family Code precisely outlines this difference, shedding light on the unique rights of children in various family setups. Understanding this legal contrast can provide valuable insights into the rights of different children under the law.
What makes a child legitimate?
Article 164 of the Family Code provides that “children conceived or born during the marriage of the parents are legitimate.”
- For instance, a child conceived before marriage but born during the marriage is considered legitimate.
- Similarly, a child conceived during marriage but born outside of marriage, such as after annulment, is also regarded as legitimate.
- The same provision of the Family Code specifies that “children conceived as a result of artificial insemination of the wife with the sperm of the husband or that of a donor or both are likewise legitimate children of the husband and his wife.” However, this situation is subject to specific requirements. The spouses must give written consent before the birth of the child, and this document should be recorded in the civil registry with the latter’s birth certificate.
How the law defines illegitimate children
On the other hand, Article 165 of the Family Code states that “children conceived and born outside a valid marriage are illegitimate,” unless otherwise provided by the same law.
Having differentiated between the two, the discussion now shifts to some of the various rights illegitimate children have.
The rights of illegitimate children: Here are some of the rights of children conceived and born outside of marriage.
1. Right to use the father’s surname
A question that often arises in discussions about children born out of wedlock is whether they can use their father's last name.
No less than the Supreme Court elucidated on this matter in the case of Grace Grande vs. Patricio Antonio, which was promulgated on February 18, 2014.
In its discussion, the high court stressed that the general rule is that “an illegitimate child shall use the surname of his or her mother. The exception provided by Republic Act No. 9255 is, in case his or her filiation is expressly recognized by the father through the record of birth appearing in the civil register or when an admission in a public document or private handwritten instrument is made by the father. In such a situation, the illegitimate child may use the surname of the father.”
The Supreme Court also emphasized in this case how Article 176 of the Family Code “gives illegitimate children the right to decide if they want to use the surname of their father or not. It is not the father xxx or the mother xxx who is granted by law the right to dictate the surname of their illegitimate children.”
To put it simply, the rule is that a recognized illegitimate child will use his or her mother's surname by default, but has the option to decide whether to adopt the surname of his or her biological father.
2. Inheritance rights of illegitimate children
In addition to the use of surnames, another frequently discussed subject when it comes to the rights of both legitimate and illegitimate children is the issue of inheritance. To provide a more comprehensive understanding of this subject, it is essential to examine the concept of "legitime." According to Article 886 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, "legitime is that part of the testator's property which he cannot dispose of because the law has reserved it for certain heirs who are, therefore, called compulsory heirs."
In simpler terms, "legitime" represents a portion of a deceased parent's estate that is protected by law for specific family members known as compulsory heirs. This particular share of the assets cannot be freely bequeathed but is subject to legal safeguards upon the parent's demise.
'It's essential to emphasize that the distribution of inheritance depends on the compulsory heirs left by the deceased parent.'
Now, a person without any legal background might naturally ask who these compulsory heirs are. Leaving no room for doubts, the law is precise when it comes to enumerating the individuals included in the roster of compulsory heirs.
According to Article 887 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, they are the following:
(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and ascendants;
(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their legitimate children and descendants;
(3) The widow or widower;
(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;
(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287.
Evidently, this inclusive list covers both legitimate and illegitimate children. Thus, illegitimate children are entitled to their legitime and should not be denied their rightful inheritance.
Given this, a common question about inheritance revolves around how the shares for illegitimate and legitimate children differ. It is crucial to grasp that when it comes to inheritance, the law treats legitimate and illegitimate children differently.
Pursuant to Article 895 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, the general rule is that the share of an illegitimate child is only half of what a legitimate child would receive.
To illustrate, if the value of a deceased father’s estate is one million pesos, the legitimate child automatically receives one-half of one million, that is P500,000. Meanwhile, the illegitimate child gets one-half of P500,000, which is P250,000.
Nevertheless, the illustration above represents the general rule. It's essential to emphasize that the distribution of inheritance depends on the compulsory heirs left by the deceased parent. The legal framework, nonetheless, comprises numerous rules that intricately specify the share entitled to an illegitimate child in these diverse scenarios.
3. The Right to Receive Support
Illegitimate children are eligible for parental assistance. Unlike in the case of inheritance rights, it's crucial to underline that within the Philippines, every child, regardless of their legitimacy, is entitled to receive financial support from their parents, as stated in Article 195 of the Family Code.
To be more specific, Article 194 of the Family Code delineates support as encompassing everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the family.
The concept of education includes a child's schooling or training for some profession, trade or vocation, even beyond the age of majority, while transportation includes expenses in going to and from school, or to and from place of work.
According to Article 201 of the Family Code, the amount of support shall be proportionate to the resources or means of the giver as well as the necessities of the recipient.
To protect a child's entitlement to financial support, the act of withholding such support is subject to penalties under Republic Act No. 9262, also known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act.
In conclusion, this article has only touched the surface of the various rights given to illegitimate children under family law. The legal system is complex, with many rules and protections that ensure the welfare and future of all children. From the right to choose which surname to use and inheritance to essential parental support, what has been covered is just a part of the comprehensive framework that evolves with the changing society.
In summary, the law remains dedicated to safeguarding the rights of every child, whether legitimate or not.