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]


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

  1. Jeff

    Atty Fred,

    Naghiwalay po kmi ng leave in partner ko, ung sasakyan nakapangalan sa kanya pero may mga resibo po ako sa mga binayad ko. Pede ko po ba iclaim ung nga binayad ko sansasakyan? Ung sasakyan po nakapangalan sa kanya. Ty

  2. Belle

    Hello Atty. Fred,

    It’s about by Aunt, she’s living with this married man for more than 15 years. She then found out now that this man has another woman but won’t leave my aunt unless she give him half of her properties. Is this legal/ does he have a right to demand that? If so, does my aunt also have a right to half of his properties? Thank you!

  3. Gretchen

    Hello Atty.
    I have a lesbian ex-partner our relationship last for 12years. We live together for 8years. 5 months after we broke up she was asking me to pay the half of the liabilities we spend when we are still together like credit card that is under her name. She said that she will be sending a demand letter for me to settle the said amount. I would like to know if there is a law that I am liable to pay for the said amount or if she has the right to file a demand letter for me. There is also liabilities left under my name but I didn’t ask for anything.

  4. Cathy


    Do the two parties have to live together consecutively for a specified amount of time to be considered common – law – i.e in British Columbia Canada it s a 2 year minimum in order to be able to claim common law status.

    Many thaks

  5. keykirby

    hello po atty fred .ung article 148 ano po ang karapatan ng illegal wife yung father at mother ko po legally father pass away last december at isa po syang public servant in 19 years .kapitan po sya sa aming brgy .wala po syang work ung nagsama po sila ng father ko .kasi sabi po nia sya po nagpagawa ng building.pero ang nagpagawa ng building ung father ko with 3storey at paupahan po siya . pero ung property po under by name my three brothers PNR asso. yung buhay po ang tatay ko sya po ung kumukuha ng renta at hindi po ang mother ko.may karapatan po ba ang mother ko n sya na ang maningil ng paupahan at hindi na po yung step mother ko kasi po wala naman po sya maipakita na meron syang actual contribution n sya ang nagpagawa ng bldg .

  6. Jennifer

    May property po ang ljve in parrtner ko na morgage house sa pag ibig pero ito ay nakuha 12 year na kamjng nagsasama at may anak kami na 11 yrs old na ng panahong iyon.bagamat me work xa hindi sapat kinikita nya para mabayaran ang amortjzation ng bahay madalas na napapalya ang hulog dto dahil hati ang kanyang kita kc may mga ank xa sa kanyang unang asawa na kanyang sinusuportahan sa ganung pagkakataon ako na gumagawa ng paraan nanjan mag apply ako sa dswd na mag census at sa psa at naging ahente ako ng bahay sa filinvest at taong 2016 nawalan xa ng work due to health condition at ako na ang nagtaguyod sa aming pamilyA namasukan ako bilang brgy womens desk officer at cabo ng STL at nagbukas ako ng maliit na tindahan sarisari store uoang matugunan aming pangangailangan. Mula 2016 hanggang sa xa ay mamatay last sept 18.2020 ako ang nagtaguyof sa aming pamilya sa tulong ng aking ank sa una kong asawa. Updated po ang aming bahay sa pagbabayad sa pag ibig.. Pero pp ng among i process sana hinahanap po ang legal wife nya.. May karapatan ba ako sa bahay gayong ako ang nagsakripisyo na mabayaran monthly nito at sa application sa pag ibig single ang status nya at isang beneficiary meaning anak namin.. Anak namin ay apilyedo nya ang gamit. May pag asa ba na mapasaamin ang bHay.. Sana po matulungan nyO ko.. BY answering tru my email address salamat po..

  7. Asia

    Ived been living with my partner for 13 years. Always cheated on me and lately i found out he has children before our 3 children ages 12 ,10 and a newborn. He is always out for work in a construction company they own and always gets home late 9pm onwards and even has office on holidays. Doesnt respect me talk brutalky on our children but kind in other days. Should i decide to leave him, what right do i have on my kids and what will be the proper setup for us. They are rich and i dont have money to put up a case against him for i know how they can get justice to be on their side uaing millions. Please advise me. Thank you.


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