The advent of technology, principally the internet, results in easy access to free information, including legal information. In many cases, the answer is staring seekers in the eye. When it comes to legal matters, however, the answer may be obvious but masked by the technical terms used by the law. For instance, in our post on Legal Support for the Child and RA 9262, we noted that children, legitimate or illegitimate, are entitled to support, yet we see a query whether a child born out of wedlock is entitled to support. It would be helpful to demystify some legal terms.
In the first place, it would have been enough to plainly say that children are entitled to support. It doesn’t matter if the parents are married or unmarried. It doesn’t matter if one or both of the parents has/have a previous marriage — while this renders the child illegitimate (and exposes the offending parents to criminal liability), it does not affect the fact that the child is entitled to support. The sins of the parents should not prejudice the right of the child to support.
For the purpose of demystifying legal terms, let’s proceed to plainly describe who is a legitimate child and who is an illegitimate child. This distinction may not be crucial when it comes to support, but it matters to other areas of Family Law, including succession (inheritance or mana).
The law says that “children conceived or born during the marriage of the parents are legitimate“. In simple terms, this means that if the parents are not married, a child is considered illegitimate. In law, however, individual terms and whole provisions must always be interpreted or considered in relation with other provisions. The definition, taken in isolation, may lead people to generalize that so long as the parents are married, a child is legitimate.
This brings us to the definition of an illegitimate children: “children conceived and born outside a valid marriage are illegitimate, unless otherwise provided in this Code.” This definition speaks of a “valid marriage”. In other words, even if the parents are married (which would give the impression, based on the definition of a legitimate child, that the child is automatically legitimate in status) but there is a legal impediment to the marriage (like a previous marriage of one or both parents), the child is illegitimate. So if we merge the two definitions, we’d come up with the general rule that children conceived or born during a valid marriage is legitimate.
Of course, we can always complicate matters. What happens if the child was born before the valid marriage of the parents? The child is legitimated by the subsequent valid marriage of the parents.
What if the marriage is declared void by reason of psychological incapacity, does that mean the child is illegitimate because, based on our discussion in the immediately preceding paragraph, the marriage is not valid? Well, the same definition includes the phrase “unless otherwise provided in this Code.” The “Code” refers to the Family Code, which provides that specifically in cases of psychological incapacity, the children are considered legitimate.
Let’s reserve related topics for some other time. Hopefully we’ll get some spare time for helpful discussions.