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MANILA, Philippines– The Court of Appeals (CA) Ninth Division denied the request of two minors to intervene in their parents’ custody dispute.
The ruling, issued on August 31, upholds the decision of the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC), which earlier declined the minors’ request to participate in their father’s custody case against their mother, following their divorce in 2019.
The minors, through their legal counsel, argued that they should be allowed to join the case as they were directly affected by their parents’ custody battle. They also requested the court to set aside legal technicalities and prioritize their best interests.
However, the CA pointed out that prior court decisions did not permit minor children to intervene in custody disputes.
Justice Jaime Fortunato Caringal, who authored the decision, explained, “Clearly, the absence of jurisprudence regarding the intervention of minor children in custody suits speaks volumes against its procedural propriety.”
The case began when Andrew Douglas John Colquhoun filed a custody petition on November 19, 2019, along with a request for a hold departure order (HDO) against his estranged wife, Zarema Colquhoun, to prevent her from leaving the country with their children. Andrew sought to regain custody, establish visitation rights, and protect his parental rights. Andrew had obtained on March 19, 2019 a divorce in the United Kingdom, where they were married.
Zarema had been residing in the Philippines since 2018 after securing employment at the Asian Development Bank. Despite numerous summonses for legal proceedings, she did not appear, leading to Andrew’s motion to declare her in default. Subsequently, the Taguig RTC declared her in default for failing to respond to the custody petition and the motion to declare her in default.
On July 22, 2020, Zarema attempted to leave the country with their two children but was prevented from doing so due to the pending HDO issued by the trial court. Her subsequent requests to travel for COVID-19 vaccination and to leave the Philippines for new employment were also denied.
The case took a turn when the two children, through legal representation, filed a motion for intervention before the scheduled pre-trial on November 22, 2021. However, on February 28, 2022, the trial court denied the motion, stating that the minors lacked the legal capacity to act independently and could not enter into contracts without parental assistance.
The CA upheld the trial court’s decision, stating that the motion for intervention appeared to be an attempt by Zarema to maintain her participation in the proceedings despite her earlier declaration of default. The CA emphasized that permitting the minor children to intervene in the same custody case that determined their custody rights would be “inappropriate.”
The CA added that allowing the children to intervene in the same case that determines who has the right of custody over them would be “absurd.” – Rappler.com