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]


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

  1. AvatarLisa

    Hi.. I been with my live in partner for many years. He is not ready yet to get marriage. But I am. In this many year. Can we write a promises to each other and sign it?. For now. Until he is ready to officially want to get marry.. And can that view us marriage with him?…

  2. AvatarLuna

    My ex partner and my self have been together for 11 years but we are not married , we have 5 children ../ we acquired property together while we were together but now he does not let me in the house changed all the locks , he put the property in a non stocks corporation, without my knowledge … Now our 5 children are everywhere Huhuhu… Please help he is an Australian …

  3. AvatarKevin

    I am an American (legally divorced) living part-time in the Philippines with my girlfriend for the past eight years. I work in the US for two months and then go to the Philippines for 1 month. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to break up. She had a house built when we first met and I have been the primary source of the upkeep and improvements for the time since it was built. In addition, we built a small store, a second floor bedroom and a third floor terrace…all connected to the original house. I have extensive records of money transfers for support, upkeep, and the addition to the original house as well as construction and labor reciepts and records for the addition. Can you offer where I might stand legally in terms of splitting up the property?

  4. Avatarjamie

    Good day Atty. Fred,

    I have a seaman live in partner for 8 years. we have two children. a 5 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. we have an existing business, and i am the one who manages everything while he is on board. i am currently processing the transfer of title of our purchased land to his name. Last No. 2016 he came home and took his training in manila for several months. He stayed on his apartment and went home only once or twice a month for 5 months. After he passed the board exam as Master, last month, he went home and decided to leave us and break up with me for he was no longer happy and that he already found another love. Do i have the right to demand from him? how many percent must be his support to our children? Thank you and more power.

  5. AvatarRose Ann

    I have a question if you are still live in partner and have not yet decided to get married does my current employer can terminate my job for not getting married to my partner?

  6. AvatarEnda

    Hi atty.fred.,
    Do i have a right to confront verbaly the other girl of my live-in partner..?? Because they always said i have no right because im not the legal wife or im not married to him..
    What is the legal action about this?

  7. Avataranne

    Hi Atty. Fred just want to ask what if a live in partner have child then the man is in law school then he had an affair with other and wants to live the live in partner. does the woman can file a case against him? and does the child can get the share of the man?

  8. AvatarZasha

    Hi, I would like to know if there’s a law here in PH about male live-in partner having an affair with a 16years old. We’ve been together for 4years and we have a 2years old kid. I just found out that he is having an affair with our neighbor for a year now.

    Please advise if there’s anything I can do about this.

  9. AvatarBen

    Is this site still alive? Are we getting replies? Anyway, i have a live in partner for almost 8 years but we are at the point that we need to separate, how exactly can i protect my properties in this case? I don’t want a single peso to go to her.


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