Published 4 June 2021, The Daily Tribune

In a country that values familial relationship, support from family members is important in keeping with strong family ties. Support, however, must not only be moral or emotional, but also financial.

The Family Code implies that financial support is not merely an option, but an obligation to be given to children and qualified members.

In fact, there are legal consequences for failure to comply with this obligation, such that liability is not only civil but also criminal.

For instance, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act provides that one of the ways violence is committed against women and their children is by refusal to provide financial support.

From this, it cannot be gainsaid that the obligation to provide financial support should not be taken lightly.

Support, in the law, is described as everything indispensable for sustenance, dwelling, clothing, medical attendance, education and transportation, in keeping with the financial capacity of the family (Article 194, Family Code). This support includes schooling or training for some profession, even when the child is older than 18 years old or beyond the age of majority; and expenses in going to and from school, or to and from place of work (Article 194, Family Code).

To claim support, the rules applicable to the recovery of support are, however, either provisional in nature (support pendent lite under Rule 61 of the Rules of Court, and spouse and child support under the Rule on Provisional Orders) or those for ordinary civil actions. Certainly, the challenge in applying these rules is that these do not take into account the unique and urgent nature of actions for support.

Thus, in order to expedite the procedure in actions for support, the Supreme Court (SC) issued A.M. 21-03-02, which became effective last 31 May 2021.

The Rules on Support apply to children, whether legitimate or illegitimate, below 18 years of age, or 18 years of age and above who, because of physical or mental disability, is unable to fully support himself or herself (Section 3, Rules on Support).

Recognizing the urgent nature of actions for support, the Rules on Support provide certain periods shorter as compared to periods provided under the 2020 Revised Rules of Court (2020 Rules of Court). Notably, some of the shortened periods under the Rules on Support are the following:

· The defendant shall file his or her answer to the complaint within 15 calendar days after service of summons (Section 8, Rules on Support);

· The pre-trial shall be set not later than 30 calendar days from the filing of the last responsive pleading (Section 10, Rules on Support);

· The plaintiff shall complete the presentation of evidence within 30 calendars days from the initial trial, while the defendant shall complete the presentation of evidence within 30 calendar days from initial presentation of defendant’s evidence (Section 11, Rules on Support); and

· The court shall render judgment within a period of 30 calendar days upon admission of evidence (Section 13, Rules on Support).

Consistent with the 2020 Rules of Court, the Rules on Support provides that no motion to dismiss the complaint shall be allowed except on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; that another action is pending between the same parties for the same cause; and that the cause of action is barred by a prior judgment. (Section 5, Rules on Support)

Moreover, the only pleadings allowed to be filed, which must be all verified, are the complaint, the answer (which may contain a compulsory claim and/or cross-claim), and the answer to such counterclaim and/or cross-claim (Section 5, Rules on Support).

The complaint shall be filed in the family court which has territorial jurisdiction over the place where the plaintiff or defendant actually resides, at the election of the plaintiff; or if defendant does not reside in the Philippines or his whereabouts are unknown, the action shall be filed in the court where the plaintiff resides, or where any property of the defendant is located in the Philippines (Section 4, Rules on Support).

In fixing the financial amount to be given for child and spousal support, the Rules incorporate the Rule on Provisional Orders (Section 12, Rules on Support). Note, however, that the amount of support in the judgment may be reduced or increased proportionately, according to the necessities of the recipient and the resources of the person obliged to furnish the same (Section 13, Rules on Support). In all instances, support must be in keeping with the financial capacity of the family.

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