ABCs of Modern Family Relations

by Angel Grace D. Untalan, SEPTEMBER 2022

One of the most popular opinions in this generation is to reject the idea of marriage while some people revere the fulfillment of married life.

Over the years, communities started recognizing the expansion of gender roles in family dynamics which led to new trends in the aspect of persons and family relations.

Nowadays, more women have the courage not to submit to the usual pressure of marrying at a younger age— a notion that would have drawn flak if they had been born a few generations earlier.

Women career advancement is widely regarded now— and rightfully so, as further studies cited by the International Monetary Fund prove that women’s economic empowerment boosts economic growth and productivity.

Having to overcome a patriarchal challenge is one thing, however, there is always an abundance of disparity in opinion when it comes to the general customary approach and policy intervention related to family relations.

The sanctity of family life is regarded with utmost importance and it also necessarily carries an obligation on the part of the State to maintain its protection, as the latter is also a party in interest in all marriages.

The Court, in the case of Falcis v. Civil Registrar, noted the evolution of the social concept of family and enumerated the rights granted to married spouses which range from the right of support, successional rights, and right to property ownership.

In the same case, the Court also listed the consequences of marriage in criminal law. A spouse who suddenly caught the other spouse in the act of committing sexual intercourse with another and subsequently kills any or both of them shall be exempt from criminal liability.

Marital relations also influence the imposable penalty for crimes. Any person’s criminal act in defense of his or her spouse is a justifying circumstance, while immediate vindication of a grave offense to one’s spouse is a mitigating circumstance. In addition, a spouse who is an accessory to a crime is generally exempt from criminal liability.

The Labor Code confines an employee’s “primary beneficiaries” to his or her dependent spouse until he or she remarries, and his or her dependent children. Primary beneficiaries are entitled to receive full death benefits under the Labor Code.

A legitimate spouse is also entitled to compensation from the state insurance fund in case of the disability or death of the employee.

Essentials of Marriage

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Our laws declare that the nature, consequences, and incidents of marriage are to be governed by law and cannot be subject to stipulations, save for property relations that may be agreed upon in accordance with the limits provided under the Family Code.

Various jurisprudence reiterates that marriage is not a mere contract but an inviolable social institution.

As such, the law favors the presumption of validity of marriage because the preservation of the family is a matter of constitutional concern.

Under the Family Code, there are essential and formal requisites of marriage. The essential requisites are legal capacity and consent.

Legal capacity as an age requirement means that both contracting parties must be at least eighteen (18) years of age. Otherwise, it shall be void from the beginning even with the parent’s consent.

While it is true that legal capacity only requires the parties to be within eighteen years of age, the law qualifies the same and provides that parental consent is required if any of the parties are below twenty-one (21) years of age. Without the necessary consent, the marriage is voidable and may be annulled.

One of the formal requisites is the authority of the solemnizing officer. If your solemnizing officer has no authority under the law, such marriage is void from the beginning.

Under Art. 7 of the Family Code and Sec. 444(xviii) of the Local Government Code, the following persons are authorized to solemnize marriages: (1) incumbent members of the judiciary within the court’s jurisdiction; (2) priests, rabbi, imam or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his church or religious sect; (3) consul-general, consul or vice-consul, in limited cases; and (4) mayors.

In case any of the marrying parties are at the point of death, a ship captain, airplane chief, or military commander of a unit is also authorized to solemnize the marriage.

A valid marriage license is also a formal requisite. In its absence, the marriage shall be rendered void from the beginning.

We ask then, is a common-law marriage recognized as valid in the Philippines? The answer is no because a marriage ceremony is another requisite for the validity of Philippine marriages.

There is no prescribed form of a religious rite for the solemnization of the marriage. However, the mere private act of signing a marriage contract, without the presence of a solemnizing officer, will not be equivalent to a marriage ceremony.

The Court recognized the harmony required of the Family Code and the Revised Penal Code in cases of remarriage, as well as in criminal prosecutions of crimes affecting marriages such as, but not limited to, bigamy.

In the case of Pulido v. People, the Court had the occasion to emphasize that Art. 40 of the Family Code requires a judicial declaration of absolute nullity for purposes of remarriage, but not as a defense in bigamy. For purposes of remarriage, the only legally acceptable evidence of nullity is a final judgment declaring such previous marriage void, whereas, for other purposes such as an action for liquidation, partition, distribution, and separation of property between these spouses, any other evidence may also be acceptable to prove the existence of grounds rendering such previous marriage null and void.

Rights of the children

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Children are inevitably included in the matters of family relations. Considered the fruits of marriage, these children have rights, regardless of their legitimacy.

Contrary to popular belief, a legitimate child may choose to bear the surname of their mother or father, as provided by the Civil Code.

On the other hand, an illegitimate child is likewise entitled to support from their parents. They are also considered to be compulsory and legal heirs, their legitime being one-half of the legitime of a legitimate child.

A child born outside of wedlock to parents who, at the time of the conception, were not disqualified by any impediment to marrying the other, may be legitimated.

In case parents are separated, the custody of the minor children shall be awarded to the innocent spouse. However, the Family Code also provides that no child under seven years of age shall be separated from the mother unless the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise.

If the child is above seven years of age, they are allowed to express a preference, but the court is not bound by that choice as the question of custody remains to be discretionary on its part. These rules will also apply even when the spouses are only separated in fact.

Family in the modern era

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While a liberal approach is better appreciated nowadays, it remains to be seen whether affirmative policies on controversial issues will be adopted by the State.

Initiatives on the enactment of divorce, same-sex marriage, and birth control measures are progressively discussed to no avail, as of date.

For context, the Philippines have the highest regard for its religious beliefs. As such, proposals to approve regulations concerning these matters, without political will and legislative priority will remain bleak.

Nonetheless, present laws on family relations are clear and extensive. Ever-changing modern arrangements are being discussed to address possible gaps in the State’s regulation.


  1. Falcis v. Civil Registrar (G.R. No. 217910) September 03, 2019.
  2. Pulido v. People (G.R. No. 220149) July 27, 2021.
  3. Rabuya, Elmer T., The Law on Persons and Family Relations (2006).
  4. The Family Code of the Philippines.




About the writer:

Angel Grace D. Untalan. A Legal Management graduate with an inclination to pursue the field of higher arts. She is moderately comfortable with social interaction, but can also relish her time off from the crowd. Her works are influenced by distinguished screenwriters such as Gene Roddenberry, George R.R. Martin, and Quentin Tarantino. She aspires to become a law practitioner at The Hague, who has published papers in a Scopus-indexed journal at some point in the future.

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