An Ultimate Guide to an Illegitimate Child’s Rights, Birth Registration, and Legitimization

Atty. Kareen Lucero answers the most common legal questions concerning illegitimate children (and their families) in the Philippines.

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“How do I register the birth of my illegitimate child?”

This is the question in Marriane’s mind as she rubbed her belly while her unborn son is moving inside her growing tummy. Mixed emotions rushed through as she prepares herself for the life ahead as a single parent.

Data culled from the Philippine Statistics Authority shows that, in 2018, legitimate children are outnumbered as more than half of the babies were born to unwed mothers. Specifically, 906,106 of 1,668,120 or a total of 54.3% of the children born in the Philippines are illegitimate.

In this article, I will discuss who are considered illegitimate children in the Philippines and tackle issues facing them; show you different ways for the father to acknowledge an illegitimate child; navigate you through the process of registering the child’s birth; show you how to legitimate an illegitimate child; what to do in case the registration of the birth is late; steps to take when an illegitimate child is born outside of the Philippines; and give you tips and warnings, among others.

Related: How to Get Birth Certificate in the Philippines: An Ultimate Guide

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The use of the information contained herein does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the user/reader.

 

Who are illegitimate children?

“Children conceived and born outside of a valid marriage are considered illegitimate unless otherwise provided by the Family Code”. (Art. 165, Family Code)

Thus, children born under any of the following circumstances are considered illegitimate:

  • Children born to couples who are not legally married, or of common-law marriages;
  • Children born of couples below 18 years old;
  • Children born of void marriages under Art. 35 (2) unless either or both parties believed in good faith that the solemnizing officer has the legal authority to perform the marriage;
  • Children born of incestuous marriages under Art. 37 of the Family Code;
  • Children born of bigamous marriages;
  • Children born of adulterous relations between parents;
  • Children born of marriages void for reason of public policy under Art. 38 of the Family Code

 

What are the different issues facing illegitimate children?

As one quote said, “there is no such thing as illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Children did not choose to be born under such circumstances. Regardless, they suffer from the choices of their parents.

Some challenges faced are on issues of inheritance, custody, support, and discrimination.

1. Inheritance.

As provided by Philippine law, illegitimate children only get half of the share of the legitimate children.

Further, the law mandates that the share of the legitimate children and the spouse must first be fully satisfied before the share of the illegitimate children is given.

Art. 992 of the New Civil Code also does not give the right to an illegitimate child to inherit from the legitimate children and relatives of his or her parents through intestate succession (no last will and testament). The prohibition includes inheriting from the grandparents.

A case is currently pending with the Supreme Court whereby an illegitimate child is challenging the application of Art. 992. In this case, her father died before she was born, hence, she was not able to be formally acknowledged. However, her grandfather took care of her and provided her needs including her education. When her grandfather died, her uncles excluded her from the inheritance, hence, the case.

 

2. Custody.

Sometimes a child is caught in a crossfire when parents battle for custody. It’s specifically harder for an illegitimate child when both his or her parents have their own families and the child is tossed around like a ping pong to either one of the parents or to the grandparents.

This is the situation in one case where the father filed a petition in court to grant him custody of the child because the mother already has her own family; always in Japan; and only the relatives of the mother take care of the child. Or a case where one mother filed a case in court to gain custody of her daughter who was taken by her father without her consent. In both cases, the Court favored the mother as it is what the law dictates.

 

3. Child support.

All children under the law, whether legitimate or illegitimate, have the right to be supported and are entitled to receive love and care from their parents. However, reality dictates otherwise. Cases of child support are plenty and it gets particularly tedious if the child is not recognized by the putative father.

In one case, the petition by the mother for the financial support of her illegitimate child was dismissed as the latter was not recognized by the putative father. The court ruled that the filiation of the child must first be established before support can be demanded.

 

4. Discrimination.

Another burden an illegitimate child has to deal with is discrimination – from judgmental society, from strict Catholic schools, and from the legitimate family of the parents.

The Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic country, is conservative, thus, some strict Catholic schools prohibit children from unwed parents to enroll as doing so means running counter with the Catholic teachings.

The illegitimate child also has to carry the insecurity towards the legitimate family of his or her parents. On the other hand, the legitimate family bears animosity towards illegitimate children as they think the former is an added expense and a competition to the family’s income and properties.

 

What are the laws governing illegitimate children in the Philippines?

Some of the laws that govern illegitimate children are as follows:

  • Republic Act 386 (Civil Code of the Philippines)Chapter 4, Title VIII of the Civil Code governs paternity and filiation of children born before 03 August 1988 or prior to the effectivity of the Family Code. It also provides for the rights of illegitimate children under the law.
  • Executive Order No. 209 (The Family Code of the Philippines) – Chapter 3 of the Family Code governs paternity and filiation of illegitimate children born on 03 August 1988 onwards. It also provides for the rights of illegitimate children under the law.
  • Republic Act 9255 ( The Revilla Law) – RA 9255 is a law that allows illegitimate children to use the surname of the father amending Art. 176 of the Family Code which mandates the use of the surname of the mother if the child is illegitimate. Effectively, children born from 19 March 2004 onwards can use the surname of the father.

 

How to Acknowledge an Illegitimate Child in the Philippines.

The father of an illegitimate child has the power to change both of their destinies by simply acknowledging (or not acknowledging) that the child is his own. In this guide, you’ll learn how an illegitimate child can be acknowledged by the father and be entitled to use that father’s surname. Read More.

 

How to Register the Birth of an Illegitimate Child.

An illegitimate child, as a general rule, shall use the surname of the mother. But the laws governing this issue have changed over the years. In this updated guide, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about registering an illegitimate child’s birth (whether born in the Philippines or abroad; regular or delayed registration) as well as determining whose parent’s surname the child will take. Read More.

 

How to Change the Surname of an Illegitimate Child in the Philippines.

Once an illegitimate child is already registered in the Civil Registry, it’s still possible to change his/her surname through legal means. In this guide, I’ll discuss how to change the surname of an illegitimate child from the surname of the mother to the surname of the father and vice versa. Read More.

 

How to Legitimize an Illegitimate Child in the Philippines.

There are two ways of raising the status of a child from illegitimate to legitimate, that is, going through the process of legitimation and adoption. This article will discuss each process one by one. Read More.

 

Tips and Warnings.

  • If you are the parents of an illegitimate child, do your share to at least keep the child’s birth record proper and in order. If the child is acknowledged, be sure to have the father executes the necessary document (such as AAP or PHI) acknowledging the child, otherwise, the information of the father will not be written on the Certificate of Birth. There are many cases where the information of the father is “unknown” in the COLB even though the child is acknowledged informally.
  • Forms such as the Affidavit of Admission of Paternity (AAP) and Authority to Use the Surname of the Father (AUSF) are registrable documents of the Civil Registrar. You can obtain these at your local civil registrar.
  • Please note that for births that occurred on 3 August 1988 to 18 March 2004, an illegitimate child cannot use the surname of the father even if he is acknowledged by the father (e.g. through AAP or PHI). However, a petition in court can be filed to allow the child to use the surname of the father.

 

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Can an illegitimate child use his father’s surname?

2. Can a father compel his illegitimate child to use his surname?

3. What is the middle name of an illegitimate child?

4. Who should have custody of an illegitimate child in the Philippines?

5. I had an illegitimate child. Later, I got married to another man without executing a prenuptial agreement. After our marriage, my husband and I had legitimate children. Who is supposed to support my illegitimate child?

6. What are the rights of an illegitimate child in the Philippines?

7. I am an illegitimate child. Am I entitled to inherit anything from the estate of my father?

8. I am an illegitimate child. How can I improve my inheritance rights?

9. Can an illegitimate child inherit from grandparents?

10. What is the process of applying for Philippine passport for a minor who is an illegitimate child?

Atty. Kareen Lucero

Kareen Lucero is a lawyer previously doing litigation before working for different agencies in the government and for a multinational corporation. She has traveled to 52+ countries including a 3-month solo backpacking in South East Asia and more than 1 year of solo traveling across four continents in the world. As part of giving back, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge of law and travel. She is currently doing consulting work for a government agency.

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