G.R. No. L-7294, 27 November 1987
Private respondent filed for legal separation against petitioner with the Regional Trial Court presided over by respondent judge. Private respondent invoked concubinage as a ground. The court rendered the decision ordering petitioner to pay his wife and child support pendente lite. The court also denied his petitioner’s petition to suspend hearing pending the criminal case filed against him by his wife for concubinage.
Petitioner contends that the 1985 Rules of Court provide that civil cases are suspended such as legal separation and the incidents attached to it like support pendente lite pending a criminal case arising from the same offense until final judgment has been rendered. Petitioner also claims that the presiding judge was biased and should no longer preside over the case by reason of his decision and his denial of petitions to suspend the hearings.
Whether or not a civil action must be suspended pending a criminal action for the same offense.
No. The court ruled that a civil action for legal separation can proceed simultaneously with a criminal case arising from the same offense.
The court interpreted the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure stating that: “a civil action for legal separation, based on concubinage, may proceed ahead of, or simultaneously with, a criminal action for concubinage, because said civil action is not one “to enforce the civil liability” arising from the offense even if both the civil and criminal actions arise from or are related to the same offense. Such civil action is one intended to obtain the right to live separately, with the legal consequences thereof, such as, the dissolution of the conjugal partnership of gains, custody of offspring, support, and disqualification from inheriting from the innocent spouse, among others. A decree of legal separation, on the ground of concubinage, may be issued upon proof by preponderance of evidence in the action for legal separation. No criminal proceeding or conviction is necessary.
The civil action is not suspended because it does not intend to produce the civil liability arising from offense prosecuted under the criminal action but rather it intends to obtain the right to live separately with the legal consequences aforementioned. The support pendente lite was also found to be correctly granted, and in case petitioner does not agree with the amount may file a motion in court for modification or reduction.
* Case digest by Ariel M. Acopiado, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018