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]


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

  1. Avatarronalyn

    Hi Atty. Fred,.
    If a legally married woman, got separated and cohabits with another man, Can she state her common law husband as her dependendent or benificiary since she doesnt have any children and doesnt want her legal husband to gain the benefits?

  2. Avatarcharlene

    Hi Atty,

    can you help me with this situation. a married couple has 2 children after 6 years of being married they separated. they were not annulled or there was no legal separation papers signed. husband has now a new partner and has 5 children, they signed a joint affidavit stating that they were living together i think under this family code art 147 and this is notorized. Now, the husband is dead has no will and left a lot and 2 door apartment. how should the property be divided between the legitimate children and the illegitimate children? do the legitimate children get half of the property and the other half should be divided among the illegitimate children?

  3. Avatarnyl

    hi, attorney , Fred
    if the the two person live- in together then the boy found another girl ,then he plan to marry that girl. The live- in partner girl have a legal or right to file any case to the boy
    boy? thank.

  4. AvatarAndrea

    Good day I would like to ask if i can put in jail the women of my husband we are married but my husband have other woman. What case can i file to them i want both of them to be in jail.

  5. AvatarDranreb

    HI atty, is it possible to file a case to my common law partner if I caught her cheating, we are leaving in together for 14yrs we have a son. Please reply thanks

  6. AvatarApril boy

    My partner is legally married to a Japanese Citizen here in the Philippines last July 2011.
    Since August 2011 up until today, we are living together with our 4 kids(Biological)
    The Japanese man already went back to Japan until today. No communication from the day we live together up until today. I presume is my common law wife.

    Question: What are the steps that we need to do in order for us to get married?

  7. Avatarjohn john

    Good day Atty. May I ask I got married 9 years ago however out of my knowledge I was already acknowledged by my father since then. When I got married I use the last name of my Mother’s instead of my Father’s. Will be my marriage considered as invalid? Thanks

  8. Avatargaile

    hi just want to ask, I? currenly living in, and my husband is having an affair with a married woman, they are workmates, can I do legal action to request the employer to terminate the girl?

  9. Avataralaine

    atty. i just want to ask if what should the right things that i can do.kasi kami po ng live in partner ko from almost 7 years kaming nagsama at bago po ako umalis ng ibang bansa ay okay po kami ngayon po na pauwi na ako nalaman ko po na bininta nya pala yung bahay namin na wala po akong ka alam2 at may 3 po kaming anak di po xa nag susuporta sa mga bata ano po ba ang dapat kong gawin..nalaman ko pa may nabuntis din xang ibang babae habang nagsasama pa kami..

  10. AvatarTHav1now

    Hi Fred, I this one will be interesting, I had a girl that lived with me for 8 mo’s, She set me up from day one to scam me, after the first month I asked her to leave after seeing she was chatting with out guys online, she would not ( you can’t throw anyone out of your house in PI) anyway I let her stay for awhile until she found a place but she would still not move out, told her many times to go but she wouldn’t , she down loaded Spyware on my phones and spied on me, she kept saying she wanted to marry me , I refused and was going to throw her out finally just go so tired of the BS…. after talking to a friend he told me that she wanted to basically take me for all I was worth because she lived with me and washed and cooked and had sex with me that it gave her legal rights to half my assets and property which I had! Is that true? Can she ?I have ditched all phone scared she would find where I was at! I was so shocked I left the Philippines


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