Espiritu vs Court of Appeals.

242 SCRA 362 March 15, 1995 Fact of the Case: At Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, petitioner Reynaldo Espiritu and respondent Teresita Masauding began with a common law relationship. Their relationship resulted to Rosalind, their daughter who was born on August 16, 1986. When they were on brief vacation in the Philippines, they got married. Upon returning to United States, their second child Reginald Vince was born. On January 12, 1988. Their relationship went sour and they decided to separate some time on 1990. Instead of giving their marriage a change as allegedly pleaded by Reynaldo, Teresita left Reynaldo and the children and went back to California. Reynaldo brought his children home to the Philippines, but he was sent back by his company to Pittsburg. He had to leave his children with his sister, co petitioner Guillerma Layug. Teresita claims that she did not immediately follow her children because she was afraid of being arrested since Reynaldo had filed a criminal case for bigamy against her. On 1992, she returned to the Philippines and filed the petition of writ of habeaus corpus to gain custody over her children. The trial court favored Reynaldo for the children chose him over their mother. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision. Petitioner filed for review to the Supreme Court contending that the Court of Appeals awarded the custody of the children to the mother through an automatic and blind application of the age proviso that children below 7 shall not be separated from their mothers.

Issue: Between the father and the mother, who is more suitable and better qualified in helping the children to grow into responsible, well-adjusted, and happy young adulthood.

Held: In ascertaining the best interest of the child, courts are mandated by the Family Code to take into account all relevant considerations. If a child is under seven years old, the law presumes the mother is the best custodian. However, it is not conclusive. It can be overcome by “compelling reason”. If a child is over seven, his choice is paramount but the court is not bound by that choice. In its discretion the court may find the chosen parent unfit and award custody to the other parent, or even to third party as it deem fit under the circumstances. Both children Reginald Vince and Rosalind are now over 7 years old, capable of fair and intelligent decision. Their best interest would be better served in an environment characterized by emotional stability and a certain degree of material sufficiency for which they mother Teresita sorely is incapable or lacking. There is nothing in the records to show that Reynaldo is “unfit” under the Family Code. Moreover, the children’s clear choice is their father.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful