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VAWC and child support

Even if the marriage is declared void, the obligation to give support to a minor child subsists.

This was the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Wilfredo Ruiz v. AAA (GR 231619 November 15, 2021) that involves a case filed under the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (VAWC), or Republic Act 9262.

Enacted in 2004, RA 9262 is a landmark legislation that defines and criminalizes acts of violence against women and their children perpetrated by women’s intimate partners, i.e., husband, former husband, or any person who has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom the woman has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in, among others, economic abuse.

Under the VAWC, the grant of support and all other reliefs in a permanent protection order prevents further acts of violence against the victim, safeguards them from harm, minimizes disruptions in their life, and helps regain control over their life.

The scope of reliefs in protection orders is broadened to ensure that the victim or offended party is afforded all the remedies necessary to curtail access by a perpetrator to the victim.

This serves to safeguard the victim from greater risk of violence; to accord the victim and any designated family or household member safety in the family residence, and to prevent the perpetrator from committing acts that jeopardize the employment and support of the victim.

It also enables the court to award temporary custody of minor children to protect the children from violence, to prevent their abduction by the perpetrator and to ensure their financial support.

After due hearings, the lower court in the instant VAWC case issued an order directing the husband to provide support to the victim and their child, if still studying and unemployed equivalent to 50 percent of the income or salaries from the law offices and consultancy firm.

The decision became final and executory since he did not appeal.

As a general rule, a judgment for support is never final in the sense that not only can its amount be subject to increase or decrease but its demandability may also be suspended or re-enforced when appropriate circumstances exist.

The Court notes that most of the reliefs does not depend on whether a marriage between  the parties subsists.

The victim may still be entitled to the other reliefs even if she is no longer the legal wife, because the determining factor in the grant of the relief is whether the offended party was subjected to physical, sexual, psychological, or economic abuse.

As a form of psychological violence, coercive control pertains to a “pattern of behavior meant to dominate a partner through different tactics such as physical and sexual violence, threats, emotional insults, and economic deprivation.”

In relationships where coercive control exists, dominant partners do things that help them exert long-term power and control over their partners, such as isolating them from society, manipulating their children, using their male privilege, or employing economic abuse.

Despite the issuance of the decision, it cannot be assumed that the victim is already living in peace and free from the infliction of harm against her.

The Court noted that there is the possibility the harm the husband committed against the wife has not ceased when he filed the adultery case against the victim and continues to work with his mistress to harass her.

The court also ruled that the wife shall no longer be entitled to legal support from the time of the finality of the decision declaring her marriage with the husband void.

The marriage having been declared void, they are no longer obliged to give spousal support to each other.

However, his obligation to provide support to his minor child does not cease even if care and custody are no longer with the victim.

Parents are primarily responsible for the support of their children as the latter’s closest relatives, keeping in mind the principle that “the closer the relationship of the relatives, the stronger the tie that binds them.

As the father, he still has the obligation to support the child, if still studying and unemployed.

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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