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Espirituv.

CA(1995)

Petitioner:ReynaldoEspirituandGuillermaLayug
Respondent:CourtofAppealsandTeresitaMasauding
FACTS:
In1984,ReynaldoEspirituandTeresitaMasaudingenteredacommonlawrelationshipinPittsburgh,Pennsylvania.
RosalindTherese,theirdaughter,wasbornonOctober7,1987.
WhiletheywereonabriefvacationinthePhilippines,ReynaldoandTeresitagotmarried,andupontheirreturntotheUnitedStates,theirsecondchild,Reginaldwasbornon
January12,1988.
Therelationshipofthecoupledeteriorateduntiltheydecidedtoseparatesometimein1990.
InsteadofgivingtheirmarriageasecondchanceasallegedlypleadedbyReynaldo,TeresitaleftReynaldoandthechildrenandwentbacktoCaliforniawheresheusedto
workasanurse.
ReynaldobroughthischildrenhometothePhilippines,butwassentbackbyhiscompanytoPittsburghandhadtoleavehischildrenwithhissister,copetitionerGuillerma
Layugandherfamily.
TeresitareturnedtothePhilippinesandon1992shefiledthepetitionforawritofhabeascorpusagainsthereintwopetitionerstogaincustodyoverthechildren.
On1993,thetrialcourtdismissedthepetitionforhabeascorpus.ItsuspendedTeresita'sparentalauthorityoverthetwochildrenanddeclaredReynaldotohavesoleparental
authorityoverthembutwithvisitationrightstobeagreeduponbythepartiesandtobeapprovedbytheCourt.
TheCourtofAppealsreversedthetrialcourt'sdecisionandgavecustodytoTeresitaandvisitationrightsonweekendstoReynaldo.TheCourtofAppealsinvokedprovisions
oftheCivilCodeandFamilyCodeasbasisofgrantingcustodytorespondent.
ISSUE:
W/NtheCourtofAppealserredinholdingthatchildcustodyshouldbegiventorespondentTeresita.
HELD/RATIO:
Yes.TheCourtheldthatrespondentCourtofAppealserredinholdingthatchildcustodyshouldbegiventorespondent.Thefindingsandconclusionsoftheregionaltrial
courtissustainedbecauseitgavegreaterattentiontothechoiceofRosalindandconsideredindetailalltherelevantfactorsbearingontheissueofcustody.CourtofAppeals
resolvedthequestionofcustodyoverthechildrenthroughanautomaticandblindapplicationoftheageprovisoofArticle363oftheCivilCodeandofArticle213ofthe
FamilyCode.TheCourtofAppealswasundulyswayedbyanabstractpresumptionoflawratherthananappreciationofrelevantfactsandthelawwhichshouldapplytothose
facts.Thetaskofchoosingtheparenttowhomcustodyshallbeawardedisnotaministerialfunctiontobedeterminedbyasimpledeterminationoftheageofaminorchild.
Whetherachildisunderoroversevenyearsofage,theparamountcriterionmustalwaysbethechild'sinterests.Discretionisgiventothecourttodecidewhocanbestassure
thewelfareofthechild,andawardthecustodyonthebasisofthatconsideration.Inascertainingthewelfareandbestinterestsofthechild,courtsaremandatedbytheFamily
Codetotakeintoaccountallrelevantconsiderations.Ifachildisundersevenyearsofage,thelawpresumesthatthemotheristhebestcustodian.Thepresumptionisstrong
butitisnotconclusive.Itcanbeovercomebycompellingreasons.Ifachildisoverseven,hischoiceisparamountbut,again,thecourtisnotboundbythatchoice.Inits
discretion,thecourtmayfindthechosenparentunfitandawardcustodytotheotherparent,oreventoathirdpartyasitdeemsfitunderthecircumstances.