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]

Atty.Fred

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

  1. AvatarLeah

    hello sir, I’m here to ask about if its allowed to have a foreigner bf/husband living in philippines even if I’m a government employees,? thank you for your reply.

    Reply
  2. AvatarANTHONY

    I was living with a Philippine lady for 16 years. who last November she committed suicide.
    I bought a house 10 years ago and we had lived there since. I also took care of her son (not mine) and a daughter of her sister.

    I have moved out and her son now lives there. I now live in Thailand.

    The question is do I have any claim on the property?

    We were intended to get married but unable to due to her still being married to a Pilipino

    Thank you
    Anthony Mitchell

    Reply
  3. AvatarAgusto

    Hello Atty Fred;
    I’m 70 yrs old naturalized US citizen. Been married with a Filipina With a judge who came to my Hotel and executed our marriage but never lived together not a single day after the honeymoon.
    FNow I have a living partner for 6-7 years. She have a 8 year old daughter from other relationship . We have a four year old son together. I’ve learned from her they have a violent past . Their father beats them when they do wrong in the past. family have violent past. Their father beaten them and her mother .
    Anyway she has a violent past that when minor she was confined at DSWD being minor working as strip dancer in a bar. After getting uncontrolled violence she was confined at Mental Hospital during that period , that according to her.
    Now if her violence triggers and provokes to have a fight with me, I ended up being arrested for those self inflicted minor injuries. It’s been going on and on inflicting own injuries calling s police and ended up arrested for AR 9262 which she is familiar with and knows i have no defense on it. Now I have pending case and writing this being confined at the headquarters of MPD trying to post bail.
    I’m still residing in my USA and come to visit At least four times a year here in the Philippines. There was no time she always have her violence in nature though never did i put a hand on her.
    During our relationship i have provided her with everything to make her happy. I’m a widower and seems to start my life with her as her looks resemblance with my first wife.
    I bought her a house and lot, cars, jewelry monthly allowance of 50,000 php per month. Tried to start her with several businesses that failed body augmentations that cost me thousands of money.
    Now it seems due to AR 9262 there’s no way to defend myself. We had accumulated millions of properties I would like to separate with her before she puts me to jail as where I am now.
    What’s my legal remedies to get out of the situation . I’m willing to give her half of our assets although it’s all my efforts.

    Reply
  4. AvatarMr. A

    Hi attorney. Gusto ko lang pong malaman kasi yung ex partner ko po eh gusto ko nang hiwalayan dahil hindi ko na po kayang makisama ang gusto po niya is kasuhan ako and ipatanggal ako sa trabaho dahil may babae daw po ako. We’re living ogether for 2 years palang po and may baby po kami na sinabi ko naman po na willing akong magaustento pero ang gusto po nila is pati yung bahay na titirhan niya ako magbabayad. Ano po kayang pwede kong gawin?

    Reply
  5. AvatarIen

    Hi. My situation is complicated. I’m wife #3 and we have been living together for 10yrs with 1 kid. He got married to his 1st wife, they had 1 kid but they separated after a year. He got “married” again with wife #2 though he was still married to wife #1. He had 2 kids with wife #2 and there was a marriage certificate from NSO that they got married though technically it was void and they had 2 kids. These all happen prior to our living together. At present and also prior to our living together, he is annulled to wife #1 and his wife #2 had “divorced” him while his wife #2 lives in USA with her new kids. Since his wife #2 already had a family in the States, their 2 kids stayed with us since they were left under my husband’s care. What is my right now as his common-law wife? He bought a house for us and had also a life insurance in which our child was the principal beneficiary. He tried to asked from his wife #2 a copy of their divorce paper but until now she is not providing it. How are we going to have a valid marriage? If worse comes to worse, what right do I have to claim for his benefits esp. we have a kid. My concern is against wife #2 bec. she might claim all the benefits since they had an NSO certificate that they are “married” here in the Philippines though in reality she’s already married in the States, but here in the Philippines, divorce is not being acknowledged.

    Reply
  6. Avatarkim

    hi po, gusto ko po sana itanong, 9years na po kani ng partner ko. at ngleave in na kami for almost 5years at we have a 3 years old child. just this day, nalaman ko na meron sya iba. Gusto ko ilayu ang anak ko sa kanya. Ang taning ko po, MY RIGHT BA AKO NA KUNIN ANAK KO?

    Reply
  7. AvatarLucila

    Dear Atty Fred,
    I want to seek legal advice from you regarding my daughter who was living in for 12 long years with her common law husband.They born four young children ages 9,8,7 and one year old.The common law husband died last Sept. 20,2020 at the age of 35 yrs old due to accident,there was an autopsy report from SOCO personnel.He was a fireman personnel for 8long years.My question atty Fred,what are the legal rights of my daughter regarding all the claims from the work of the death of his common law husband, taking into consideration that all her four young children are in her custody. About the survivorship monthly pension of her minor children,,who is the entitled name to receive the pension,,is it the parents of the died partner (being him still single) or can my daughter possibly have the right to ask within the bounds of law,that the monthly survivorship pension of her children be in her name because my daughter wil bel coming home transferring to live in our hometown, Gingoog City,,They have a home in Camiguin Province,,but she choose to come home to my homeplace,,From all the claims from his common law husband,,how much percentage will then be the sharing that will go to his parents and how much is for her children,,I hope Atty Fred,you can give me an advice to enlighten our mind to claim the just rights of my young grandchildren within the bounds of law and not be denied of their justice,,thank you and more power,,

    Lucille
    Grandmother

    Reply
  8. AvatarMs. Z

    Hi Atty. Fred,

    I have a live-in partner and would want to know if he can get my health care benefits. We are not married nor have been married previously. Would it be possible? or would they only allow legally wed couples?

    Reply
  9. AvatarBeverly

    Hi ask ko lng po if may karapatan po yung live in partner ng kuya ko sa mga gamit po niya nasa bahay, yung brother ko po is namatay na po, meron po sikang dalawang baby ng live in partner niya pero hindi po sila nakatira sa bahay, may pinagawa po na bahay yung kuya ko para dun sa live in partner niya, dinaan po kasi ng live in partner ni kuya sa barngay ang pag kuha ng lahat ng gamit ng kapatid ko sa bahay, and pati po pagiging caretaker ng lupa na natatayuan ng bahay nmin is sakanya dn po binigay ng may ari, family po nmin ang caretaker ng lupa for more or less 70 years po

    Reply
  10. AvatarClaudet santos

    Hi Atty.

    I am seeking your kind advise for my friend. She was a common wife for about 8yrs.with a married man. And sadly,her partner died recently. The legal family was based in U.S and they are not interested in all the properties left except for his eldest sister…
    May laban ba sya s mga property na naiwan?

    Reply

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