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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. francis

    My girlfriend and I have 2 kids, the house we live in together is owned by my parents, she won’t leave despite all attempts I… Can I go to the police and have her evicted? I’m not trying to runaway from my responsibilities as a father. I will support the kids, heck, I want the kids to live with me.

  7. corazon

    good evening.atty fred ,may ikokonsulta po sana ako sau about po sa problema ko with my live-in partner for 6yrs now.may pinagawa po kse kaming bahay pero nsa name po nya pero ndi po maaus ang sitwasyon namin because napakaseloso po nya and gusto ko po sanang malaman kung may habol po b ako n makuha ung bahay s kanya kase halos ako po ang gumastos doon at may monthly remittance po kse akong pinapadala s kanya.anu po ba ang dapat kong gawin?sana matulungan nyo ako.thank you in advance

  8. Alex

    My name is Alex Morrison, I have built a house on the land of my ex girl friends land. I did this for the protection and wellbeing of both her and my son who is turning 2 on March 25 2019.

    She wanted to goto Manila to find work and after much resistance I said OK.

    Since she has been there she has been caught out cheating on me and has admitted that she did so whilst leaving our son with her parents.

    She refuses to go back to the house and I want to ensure that I can gain custody of my son and ensure that the property remains mine.

    We have been in a relationship since April 4th 2016.

    What are my lawful rights?

  9. Ally

    Dear. Atty.

    Please i need your help .
    We are live in for 4 years and have kids po , 3 yrs old and 10 months old. Nang babae po sya eto pong babae kahit alam may pamilya na at live in kami pumapatol po sya sa ama ng mga anak ko. Infact niyaya nya po na sakanila matulog at kung anu pa po.. Nag kaaway po kami nitong babae at inulit nya po yun na magpakabit sa live in partner ko, do i have a right po ba na ireklamo itong babae? Merun po mga convo na hinahanap nya ang asawa ko kasi daw po d na napunta sakanya ganyan po merun din na bnblock mail ako ng pinsan ng babae na yun na may scandal daw po ako. Pwedi po ba ako mag file ng case sa babae o sa live in partner ko? Please answer me po and help me

  10. sunshine

    Ang asawa ko may girlfriend 3 years na… nasa abroad kami ngayun at sooner uuwi na kami ng nga anak niya…ano po puedeng I kaso ko sa kniya in case malam an ko nag live in sila… kasi sooner or later baka sundan nya iyung babae niya sa ibang bansa… Ano po ang dapat Kong gawin para sa mga anak ko na hindi magiging problems ang pagsuports niya a. Lalo financially.. at yung babae. .. may evidence ako na may ro mantic relationship sila..ang madalas nanggugulo pa sa akin sa social media.

  11. jc

    gud day mam/sir. my situation is like this po. we r leaving 2 geder as common law for almost 7 years. we have 2 sons, 4 yrs and a 2yr old. when she come back from singapore, she have a bf, then she let me go to work as normal we can be. but wen i come back from work. there no trace of them. she bring all the clothes and thing of my children, what can i do or my rights on my children, do i have rights. is it legal for her 2 do that.. wer both sinlge. she have no work or anything. because she uses ilegal identity on her passport when she go to singapore.

  12. Edward

    Hello.What is the law on resolving when a person leaving a common law relationship and setting up another family home without resolving the FIRST.Thats the family code but what can the innocent party do?Then return the following day to steal appliances.thank you

  13. Dennis

    Hi sir,
    I have live in partner for almost 5years and i have one child bo to her, we are now separated and all the properties that i buy was under her name but is all come from my money
    Do i have right to get of some

    Like car,furniture,appliances,money
    But all of that under her name

    Thanks and best regards


  14. RL

    I would just like to ask if a person can file a case against her common-law husband which they have been living together since 2013 until now once proven that the man is having an affair with someone? They don’t have children. If it is possible, what grounds can the person file? Can she file a case against her common-law husband and the woman? Hoping for a reply. Thanks so much.

  15. Christopher

    Is there any form of a legal pre- nuptial agreement in the Philippines related to a live an partnership only


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