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.

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.

176 thoughts on “Common-law marriage (live-in relationships) in the Philippines

  1. Me-an

    Attorney tanong lang po pwede ko po ba demanda yung kabit ng asawa ko kahit hindi kame kasal?ano po pwedeng ikaso?

  2. Jane M.

    Hi atty. I had a partner, we lived together for 8 yrs. Have a 7 yr old daughter. He died this year, and the legal wife is claiming all insurance and death benefits. Is my daughter entitled to claim as an illegitimate child? He left us with nothing, and the legal wife said only their legitimate son has the right to claim such money. I hope u can enlighten and help me. Thank you.

  3. Stingray

    Hi Atty Fred, just need an advise and for me to clear things between my business partner/live in partner for 9 years and we do not have children. My partner is still legally married to her husband and they do not have children as well. Things is not good for me and my partner and we decided to have our own separate lives. The problem is I bought a land and build a house under my name but she took the original deed of sale, someone told me that she process the transfer of the title under her name. Is it legal or it can be transfer to her name even though its mine? How can I get my equal rights for all the property and money that we shared even though some asset are under her name,car and account in the bank.
    In separation of live in partners what are our both right?
    By the way, I am now married to my wife a year ago.
    Hope to hear from you and thanking you in advance.

  4. lino

    Hi good day ATTY,

    I’ve been separated from my wife since middle of 2009 with 1 child, we got married in 2007. I want to get married again, is this possible? what are the things that I need to do?

  5. eric

    year 1985, i was married in civil law at the age of 19yrs old and my wife is 14yrs old and 7 months, we have 2 children, we only lasted for 7yrs. Year 1993, we have agreed to separate ways for a reason that we are not compatible and have an agreement signed in front of the barangay captain with his office staff and with our parents. since then, we have no longer any communication up to present.
    now, i have a new family with 2 children ages 22 and 24 yrs old and i also knew that my previous wife has already a family on her own.
    i want to ask an advise from you if i have a chance to marry my live in partner now since we have accumulated 24 yrs of living in together. i am only a govt employee with the lowest salary grade 1 and i can’t afford to pay a legal fee of P150,000.00 for an annulment case. i am just practical, i cannot afford that such amount.

  6. legally single

    HI Atty Fred,

    I legally single and living with a married man for the past 25 years, we have 2 kids… he has 5 kids with his legal wife. I acquired a couple of properties to start with, while working in a foreign country. we acquired a couple more together afterwards.. an incident happened which almost cost my and my kids life, Arson group/investigators found the incident to be intentional (and should I say it points to the first family). the relationship is going south after the incident. How will the properties be divided?

    Will the properties I acquired before he had the means to acquire properties be solely mine and my kids alone? I want to make sure my kids are protected and whatever I saved for them really goes to them alone.

    legally single


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