“Who are entitled to it?”
This article will be in two parts. The first part will cover the Rules on Action for Support and the second part will focus on the Procedure for Petition for Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Decisions or Judgments on Support. Both Rules were incorporated in A.M. No. 21-03-02-SC, which took effect on 31 May 2021.
According to Article 68 of the Family Code, a husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support. The obligation to give support springs from the relationship and filiation between the giver and those entitled to receive it.
Support comprises everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education, and transportation; and all this in keeping with the financial capacity of the family (Section 3(b), Rule I, A.M. 21-03-02-SC).
The support to be given for the education of the person shall include his or her schooling or training for some profession, trade or vocation, even beyond the age of 18 years. Transportation shall include expenses in going to and from school, or to and from a place of work (Section 3(b), Rule I).
The following are obliged to give support to each other: (a) spouses; (b) legitimate ascendants and descendants; (c) parents and their legitimate and illegitimate children, including the latter’s legitimate and illegitimate children; and (d) legitimate brother and sisters, whether full or half-blood (Article 195, Family Code).
A child who is entitled to support is defined as a person below 18 years of age, or one who is 18 years of age and above who, because of a physical or mental disability, is unable to fully support himself or herself (Section 3(a), Rule I).
An action for support shall be filed or instituted in the court which has territorial jurisdiction over the place where the plaintiff or defendant actually resides, at the election of the plaintiff. If the defendant does not reside in the Philippines or the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown, the action shall be filed in the court where the plaintiff resides, or where any property of the defendant is located in the Philippines (Section 4, Rule II).
All pleadings to be filed in an action for support must be verified. The only pleadings allowed to be filed are the complaint, the answer which may contain a compulsory counterclaim and/or cross-claim, and the answer to the counterclaim and/or cross-claim (Section 5, Rule II).
A motion to dismiss the complaint is not allowed except on the following grounds: a) of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; b) that another action is pending between the same parties for the same cause; and c) that the cause of action is barred by a prior judgment. However, any grounds that might warrant a dismissal of the case may be raised as an affirmative defense in the answer (Section 5, Rule II).
If the verified complaint for support is sufficient in form and substance, the judge shall immediately direct the clerk of court to issue and serve summons to the defendant, together with a copy of the complaint and its annexes. The defendant, upon receipt of the summons and complaint, must file his or her answer within fifteen (15) calendar days thereof (Sections 6 and 8, Rule II).
The period given in the Rules on Action for Support within which to file an answer is shorter than the period of thirty calendar days provided under the 2019 Amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure (2019 ARCP). However, the court may fix a longer period not exceeding sixty (60) calendar days to file an answer in case the defendant is not a resident of the Philippines, or his or her whereabouts are unknown. A counterclaim or cross-claim incorporated in the answer must be answered by the plaintiff within fifteen (15) calendar days from its receipt (Section 8, Rule II).
A defendant may, for meritorious reasons, be granted an additional period of not more than fifteen (15) calendar days to file an answer. A defendant is only allowed to one (1) motion for extension of time to file an answer. The filing of a motion for extension to file any other pleading is prohibited and may be treated as a mere scrap of paper (Section 8, Rule II).
Under the Rules on Action for Support, the failure to file an answer or a motion to dismiss may cause the defendant to be declared in default under the provisions of Rule 9 of the 2019 ARCP. The failure to file an answer shall be without prejudice to any settlement agreement entered into by the parties in the course of the trial (Section 9, Rule II).
The settlement agreement must be reduced in writing, signed by the parties and submitted to the court for approval. The court shall not approve any compromise or settlement agreement concerning future support and any waiver of the right to future support. Any compromise or settlement of this nature shall be invalid (Section 9, Rule II).
After the last responsive pleading, e.g., answer or answer to counterclaim/cross-claim, has been served and filed, the branch clerk of court shall issue, within three (3) calendar days from its filing, a notice of pre-trial which shall be set not later than thirty (30) calendar days from the filing of the last responsive pleading (Section 10, Rule II).
The failure without just cause of a party and counsel to appear during pre-trial, despite notice, shall result in a waiver of any objections to the faithfulness of the reproductions marked, or their genuineness and due execution. However, the failure, without just cause, of a party and/or counsel to produce the evidence during pre-trial shall result in a waiver of the presentation of the evidence (Section 10, Rule II).
The failure of the plaintiff and counsel to appear or to file a pre-trial brief without valid cause shall cause the dismissal of the action with prejudice unless otherwise ordered by the court. A similar failure on the part of the defendant and counsel shall be a cause for allowing the plaintiff to present his or her evidence ex-parte or without the participation of the defendant (Section 10, Rule II).
Should there be no settlement between the parties, the dates for reception of evidence shall be set. The plaintiff shall complete the presentation of evidence within thirty (30) calendar days from the initial trial. The defendant shall also complete the presentation of evidence within thirty (30) calendar days from initial presentation of his or her evidence (Section 11, Rule II).
For child support, the court may order either parent or both to give an amount necessary for the support, maintenance, and education of their child. It shall be proportional to the resources or means of the giver and to the necessities of the recipient. The court may direct the deduction of the amount of support from the salary of the parent/s (Section 12 A, Rule II).
In determining the amount of support, the court may likewise consider the following factors: (1) the financial resources of the custodial and non-custodial parent and those of the child; (2) the physical and emotional health of the child and his or her special needs and aptitudes; (3) the standard of living the child has been accustomed to; and (4) the non-monetary contributions that the parents will make towards the care and well-being of the child (Section 12 A, Rule II).
For spousal support, the court may award support to either spouse in an amount and for such a period of time that the court deems reasonable based on their standard of living during the marriage. The court may likewise consider the comparative financial resources of the spouses; the needs and obligations of each spouse; the contribution of each spouse to the marriage; and the age and health condition of the spouses, among others (Section 12 B, Rule II).
The court shall render judgment within a period of thirty (30) calendar days upon the admission of the evidence of the parties. The court may direct the parties to submit their respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of ten (10) calendar days, which shall neither extend nor suspend the period to render judgment (Section 13, Rule II).
The judgment of the court is immediately executory. An appeal from the judgment shall not stay or stop the execution thereof. Any petition for certiorari, prohibition, or mandamus will not cause the suspension of the proceedings or execution of judgment, unless a restraining order is issued by the proper court (Section 15, Rule II).
The concerned officer shall enforce the execution of the judgment for support by demanding from the judgment obligor the immediate payment of the full amount stated in the writ of execution. The judgment obligor shall pay in cash, certified bank check, or any other form of payment acceptable to the judgment obligee (Section 16, Rule II).
If the judgment obligor cannot pay or satisfy the judgment award in full, any of the following measures may be availed of by the winning party: (a) garnishment of debts and other credits; (b) satisfaction by levy; (c) deduction from salary; and (d) withholding of pension, retirement and other funds (Section 16, Rule II).
While there are Rules on Action for Support that lays down the procedure in cases where there is a refusal to give support, it is best that the parties amicably settle and agree on the amounts of support claimed, out of court. By doing this, the parties will save time, resources, and maintain their harmonious relationships despite a dissolved or terminated marriage.