As a general rule, a child under 7 years of age shall be in the custody of the mother (Art 213 of the Family Code). This is known as the maternal preference rule or tender-years-rule.
But this rule has exceptions: when the court finds compelling reasons to order otherwise. This includes finding compelling evidence showing the mother’s unfitness such as:
- habitual drunkenness
- drug addiction
- maltreatment of the child
- affliction with a communicable disease
Case law: Agnes Hirsch vs. CA and Franklin Hirsch (GR No. 174485, July 11, 2007)