Saturday, February 22, 2014

Case Digest: Roehr v. Rodriguez

WOLFGANG O. ROEHR, petitioner, vs. MARIA CARMEN D. RODRIGUEZ, HON. JUDGE JOSEFINA GUEVARA-SALONGA, Presiding Judge of Makati RTC, Branch 149, respondents.
G.R. No. 142820, June 20, 2003


Petitioner Wolfgang O. Roehr, a German citizen, married private respondent Carmen Rodriguez, a Filipina, on December 11, 1980 in Germany. Their marriage was subsequently ratified on February 14, 1981 in Tayasan, Negros Oriental. Out of their union were born Carolynne and Alexandra Kristine.

Carmen filed a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage before the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC). Wolfgang filed a motion to dismiss, but it was denied.

Meanwhile, Wolfgang obtained a decree of divorce from the Court of First Instance of Hamburg-Blankenese. Said decree also provides that the parental custody of the children should be vested to Wolfgang.

Wolfgang filed another motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction as a divorce decree had already been promulgated, and said motion was granted by Public Respondent RTC Judge Salonga.

Carmen filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration, with a prayer that the case proceed for the purpose of determining the issues of custody of children and the distribution of the properties between her and Wolfgang. Judge Salonga  partially set aside her previous order for the purpose of tackling the issues of support and custody of their children.

1st Issue: W/N Judge Salonga was correct in granting a partial motion for reconsideration.

Ruling: Yes.

A judge can order a partial reconsideration of a case that has not yet attained finality, as in the case at bar.

The Supreme Court goes further to say that the court can modify or alter a judgment even after the same has become executory whenever circumstances transpire rendering its decision unjust and inequitable, as where certain facts and circumstances justifying or requiring such modification or alteration transpired after the judgment has become final and executory and when it becomes imperative in the higher interest of justice or when supervening events warrant it.

2nd issue: W/N Judge Salonga's act was valid when she assumed and retained jurisdiction as regards child custody and support.

Ruling: Yes.

As a general rule, divorce decrees obtained by foreigners in other countries are recognizable in our jurisdiction. But the legal effects thereof, e.g. on custody, care and support of the children, must still be determined by our courts.

Before our courts can give the effect of res judicata to a foreign judgment, such as the award of custody to Wolfgang by the German court, it must be shown that the parties opposed to the judgment had been given ample opportunity to do so on grounds allowed under Rule 39, Section 50 of the Rules of Court (now Rule 39, Section 48, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure).

In the present case, it cannot be said that private respondent was given the opportunity to challenge the judgment of the German court so that there is basis for declaring that judgment as res judicata with regard to the rights of Wolfgang to have parental custody of their two children. The proceedings in the German court were summary. As to what was the extent of Carmen’s participation in the proceedings in the German court, the records remain unclear.

Absent any finding that private respondent is unfit to obtain custody of the children, the trial court was correct in setting the issue for hearing to determine the issue of parental custody, care, support and education mindful of the best interests of the children.

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