Common-Law Marriage (Live-in Relationships) in the Philippines

Money is [one of] the root[s] of all kinds of relationship problems, says an article at the Family Relationships site. In my modest years of law practice, I can say that among the most bitter confrontations (in and out of court) relate to property/money/inheritance issues between members of the family.

Common Law Marriage or Live-in Relationships in the Philippines

Under the Family Code of the Philippines, property matters between the husband and wife are set forth in relative detail, e.g., the forms and requisites of a marriage settlement or ante-nuptial agreement, donations by reason of marriage, the “default” property regime of absolute community of property (vis-a-vis separation of property, and conjugal partnership of gains), support for the spouse and the children, and the effects of legal separation and annulment of marriage on the spouses’ properties. I’m still trying to decide if I should further discuss any of these topics (also, the rules on succession/inheritance are treated in other laws/issuances, and may be discussed separately in other entries).

For this entry, allow me to focus on something that appears to be increasingly common nowadays — the “live-in” relationship, also called “common-law marriage“. This is governed by Article 147 of the Family Code, which reads:

Art. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.

Neither party can encumber or dispose by acts inter vivos of his or her share in the property acquired during cohabitation and owned in common, without the consent of the other, until after the termination of their cohabitation.

When only one of the parties to a void marriage is in good faith, the share of the party in bad faith in the co-ownership shall be forfeited in favor of their common children. In case of default of or waiver by any or all of the common children or their descendants, each vacant share shall belong to the respective surviving descendants. In the absence of descendants, such share shall belong to the innocent party. In all cases, the forfeiture shall take place upon termination of the cohabitation.

The Family Code (Art. 147) recognizes, and expressly governs the property relations in, the relationship where a man and a woman live exclusively with each other just like a husband and wife, but without the benefit of marriage (or when the marriage is void). It is required, however, that both must be capacitated, or has no legal impediment, to marry each other (for instance, couples under a “live-in” relationship will not be covered under this provision if one or both has a prior existing marriage). In this situation, property acquired by both spouses through their work and industry shall be governed by the rules on equal co-ownership. Any property acquired during the union is presumed to have been obtained through their joint efforts. As to the homemaker, or the one who cared for and maintained the family household, he/she is still considered to have jointly contributed to the acquisition of a property, even if he/she did not directly participate in the property’s acquisition.

How about if one or both partners are not capacitated to marry, as when one (or both) has an existing or prior marriage which has not been annulled/declared void? This is covered under Art. 148 of the Family Code, which reads:

Art. 148. In cases of cohabitation not falling under the preceding Article, only the properties acquired by both of the parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property, or industry shall be owned by them in common in proportion to their respective contributions. In the absence of proof to the contrary, their contributions and corresponding shares are presumed to be equal. The same rule and presumption shall apply to joint deposits of money and evidences of credit.

If one of the parties is validly married to another, his or her share in the co-ownership shall accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership existing in such valid marriage. If the party who acted in bad faith is not validly married to another, his or her shall be forfeited in the manner provided in the last paragraph of the preceding Article.

The foregoing rules on forfeiture shall likewise apply even if both parties are in bad faith.

In other words, under Art. 148, only the properties acquired through their ACTUAL JOINT contribution of money, property or industry shall be owned by them in common (in proportion to their actual contributions). There is no presumption that properties were acquired through the partners’ joint effort. Please also note that if one has a prior marriage, his/her share shall be forfeited in favor of that previous marriage (as an aside, the children under the second relationship shall be considered as illegitimate).

So, as previously stated in this Forum, put your (first) house in order first. No need to rush; love is patient. It can wait. [See also Domestic Partnerships and Cohabitation Agreements in the Philippines]


234 thoughts on “Common-Law Marriage (Live-in Relationships) in the Philippines

  1. Avatarms_agnes

    how about if the petitioner is a Japanese national with a prior marriage to a filipina which has not been annuled? is he entitled to get any share from the business and properties acquired during his cohabitation with the defendant (filipina mother of 2)? all loans used for the properties and businesses are made by the defendant. Cash used are from the investors who are enjoying privileges which are being given by the defendant.

    1. AvatarKikay

      Hi i have common law husband for 8 years.. my commonl law husband was married legally(court wedding) but he found out her wife infidelity… his ex wife work in macau and did not go home for straight 6 years and he found out that his ex wife having an affair with his kumpare/ neighbor and they both apply for a job in macau to hide theeir relationship…. we have plan for church wedding next year . Do you ghink church and court allow us?

    2. AvatarRonel

      No, it can’t be. No succeeding marriages shall be valid without first securing annulment or order from the court. Without this annulment order, any succeeding marriages shall be null and void.

  2. Atty. FredAtty. Fred Post author

    Agnes, it really isn’t clear in what capacity is the Japanese a “petitioner” and the Filipina a “defendant”. It’s also not clear if there are two separate relationships (with the use of the terms “prior marriage” and “cohabitation”). There are so many questions that must be answered – but I can’t ask (and please don’t answer) because this is not allowed in this site (please see Terms of Use). I hope you understand.

    1. AvatarMr. Yani

      Is having a live-in relationship or common law marriage between a public school teacher and his girlfriend a ground for dismissal in public service?

    2. AvatarHerbert

      Atty. Fred, magandang araw po sa inyo. Ako po ay may kinakasama sa loob ng 3 taon at 5 buwan. Sya po ay may anak sa una ngunit hiwalay n po cla. Ako po ay kanyang iniwan sa kabila po ng hindi ko pagpapabaya sa pamilya, lahat po ng pangangailangan namin ay naibibigay ko po pati po ang mga luho nya sa sarili nya ay naibibigay ko din po at nagbibigay din po ako ng pera para sa anak nya sa una. Ang dahilan po nya kaya nya ako iniwan ay dahil nagbibisyo daw po ako at yun po ay walang katotohanan at hindi po nya nakita kahit minsan na ako ay nagbisyo naiisip lamang po nya iyon at ibinibintang sa akin dahil may kaibigan po ako na nagbibisyo ngunit hindi naman po tama na pag isipan nya ako na nagbibisyo din dahil hindi po totoo yun. Gusto ko po sya kausapin at linawin po ang lahat ngunit ang mga magulang nya po ay humahadlang na mag usap po kmi. May karapatan po ba ako para makausap ko po sya? Maraming salamat po.


      Sir how about for the benefits of deceased husband ,is there any way to be declare my mother as the pensioner without marriage? pls i need your advise about that I want my mother to pension for the sake of my late father they need financial assitance because my father is only the one who provide their needs

  3. Avatarkatrobles24

    what happens in this situation:
    man was previouly married and civil annullment is pending for the last 20 or so years (this was not disclosed to 2nd wife), church annullment document was provided and woman marries the man.

    now the man wants leave the current wife to be with another woman after 18 years. Man tells woman that ‘supposed marriage’ is invalid since anullment was not final (man shows up in NSO with 2 marriages) and woman does not have a right on the conjugal propery’. what kind of rights does the woman have with regards to property that came out of the 18 years of cohabitation? and what are appropriate next steps?

  4. Avatarjane

    do i have the right to ask for financial support with my x live in partner? im still 3 mos pregnant? what should i do? he must be the responsibilty of having a baby.. hope u can help

  5. Avatarjane

    do i have the right to ask for financial support with my x live in partner? im still 3 mos pregnant? what should i do? he must be feel the responsibilty of having a baby.. hope u can help…

  6. Avatarjzol

    Hi Atty Fred,

    I have an Aunt, she lived with this man for 20 years out of wedlock, because the latter have a prior legal marriage. Now, the man died, left in a bank is a certain amount of money. I would just like to know if my aunt has legal rights to claim the money to the bank, if yes, what do we need to do to have the bank aggreed on this process. Thanks in advance for your reply. =)

  7. Atty. FredAtty. Fred Post author


    Thank you. First off, I’m prohibited from giving any legal advice, so let’s limit this to giving you legal information. As discussed in the article, only the properties acquired by both parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property or industry shall be owned in common in proportion to the respective contribution.  In the absence of proof to the contrary, the sharing is equal. I’m sure that if you ask your bank about this, they will refer that question to their lawyers. I suppose they would say that since the account is under the name of the guy (not a joint account), then it goes to him or to his legal heirs (and that would be the legitimate family and the illegitimate children). Just try to ask the bank and check what they would say. Thanks.


    In general, a father (regardless of whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate) is under obligation to give support.

    1. AvatarAnn

      Hello, i am Ann,

      I am pregnant with my ex. What should i do to make him accountable for this?

  8. Pingback: Increasing live-in relationships in the Philippines? at Atty-at-Work

  9. AvatarMs. A

    Hello Atty. Fred,

    does a common-law marriage start with day 1 of living together i.e. in a commonly rented apartment or as of what point? And by what – aside from evident separation – is such a common-law marriage interrupted? I´m asking due to a European friend moving in but also being gone for months to work elsewhere (outside Philippines)? Thanks for your reply.


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