July 18, 2012
What are the rights of a man against an ex-paramour who can't move on?
Dear Atty. Allen,
My brother had a four-year relationship with a woman who has three children from a previous relationship. My brother has one child with this woman. (My brother is married with two kids but is separated from his wife.) He ended his relationship with this woman because she had so many demands and damaged our house and property (the house where they stayed is property of our parents).
When their relationship ended, the battle became hard for my brother because she ruined his life and brought him into a lot of trouble.
She went to the barangay and demanded financial support of Php6,000 monthly, supply of diapers and milk, mineral water, household help fee, and dwelling of her and all her children. She is a tenant in one unit in our small compound located near my brother's house. I said tenant because she agreed to rent the unit because it is located near her childrens' school but she has not paid rent ever since.
My brother gave in to her demands to be able to bring back his peace of mind but she wanted more. She went to our church to report my brother and humiliated him in front of our church minister. My brother offered her to rent another place and he will shoulder half of the rental fee but she did not agree.
I would like to ask if my brother can charge her extortion? What civil charge/s can we file against her? Please help us.
Atty. Allen replies:
While it is true that your brother has a responsibility towards the child whom he sired with his former paramour, the law does not sanction demands beyond those to which the child is legally entitled to, especially when these demands already amount to extortion or coercion. I think it is important for your brother to know first what the rights of his child are and what his responsibilities are towards the baby.
Having said this, it needs to be made clear to your brother and her former paramour that he has absolutely no responsibility to her and to her other children. (I am assuming that your brother fathered only one child with her.) Based on the facts that you supplied, it is clear that there is no basis for the former paramour to be demanding for "househelp fee," "dwelling of all her children" and other extra comforts and necessities from your brother as these are no longer covered by the legal definition of "support."
When it comes to his two-year old child, the obligation to support is likewise not exclusively his. Under the Family Code, both parents have the joint obligation to provide support, which comprises "everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation" to their child (Article 194, Family Code of the Philippines). Note that the Family Code also provides that the amount of support should be proportionate to the resources and means of the giver, and to the necessities of the recipient. This provision is meant to prevent people entitled to support from asking for more than what the giver can afford.
To prevent the woman from abusing your brother's kindness, I recommend meeting with her again to amicably settle the amount of support. This time, though, he can be firm with his offer of settlement, considering only the necessities of raising the child, as well as the joint obligation of the mother to provide for the needs of their child. They can do this in the presence of barangay officials, who can also stand as witnesses, or before a notary public so the agreement becomes a public document that can be pleaded in court in case any of the parties decides to resort to judicial proceedings later. As long as your brother adheres to his commitments in this settlement document, there shouldn't be any problem. In the event that the mother demands more than what the agreement provides, either of the parties can petition the court to fix the amount of support.
From the facts that you have provided, it appears that your brother, his immediate family, and you as owners of the compound all have causes of action against the woman. Your brother can file a civil case for damages resulting from her actions. Depending on the statements made by the woman and the manner by which she made these statements, she may also be liable for libel or slander. There are no sufficient details of her threats in your letter, but these may also amount to threats or coercion, which, like libel and slander, are criminal offenses.
It seems that your brother's legitimate children are also negatively affected by her actions. If they are minor children, their parents can also file a case for damages on their behalf. You can also explore the possibility of filing a criminal action for violation of Republic Act No. 7610, commonly known as the Anti-Child Abuse Law, which covers psychological abuse in any form, whether habitual or not.
Finally, as owners of the compound where she lives, you also have the right to peacefully enjoy your property and protect it from destruction or abuse by any person, as well as employ reasonable means to ensure these ends. If her actions are violating these rights, you can file a complaint with the barangay and elevate the matter to court if you don't reach a settlement before the Lupon. Again, in the event that you decide to go to court, there are a number of remedies in civil and criminal law that are available to you.
From the facts that you presented, it appears that you and your family are living in fear of this woman, and have been paralyzed by threats of what she said she can do to your brother. I think it's high time that you face these fears and confront her head on, especially since your brother does not intend to renege from his duties as father to the child and the mother has become destructive and abusive. Despite previous mistakes, you all have the right to peacefully enjoy your lives and the fruits of your labors.
If you have questions for Atty. Allen, email email@example.com.
Atty. Allen A. Liberato is head of Corporate Legal Affairs at strategic marketing communications firm TeamAsia. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman and her law education from the University of Perpetual Help under Dean Justice Isagani A. Cruz.