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. (Citations and more discussions at Wiki.LawCenter.ph)

37 Responses to “Common-law marriage (live-in relationships) in the Philippines”


Pages: « 3 2 [1] Show All

  1. 15 nianneros Jun 15th, 2009 at 10:09 am

    in the separation of live in partners.. what are the rights of the common children? can the properties be divided equally including the children? or the common children can only demand financial support?… what if the father have no job and the only support he could give are the monies he could get from the separation?…

  2. 14 danho Jul 29th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    hi, atty, fred,

    a man legally marriage with woman A, and after 5 years, he living together with woman B.
    in the next 30 years.
    he has two houses, one for woman A, one for woman B, and he stays with woman B about 80% of the days, 20% with woman A.

    now he dead, no will, woman A has children with the man, woman b has no children.
    children of woman A, woman A, and woman B are all alive now

    from your article, i think woman B are in common law marriage with the man, and woman A is in a normal legit marrage. the code said the property should be shared equally between the husband of wife.
    but he got twi wifes, so how should the properties under his name shared/ inherited ?

  3. 13 mrandmrs May 14th, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Hello Atty. Fred,

    If a couple only got married because the woman was impregnated (they weren’t together officially when it happened) and later on, half of the couple realized that the marriage was a mistake and she’d like to cohabit with another man, is that grounds for annulment? If the husband and wife have agreed to live in separate homes and the wife decides to live with another, is that acceptable?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  4. 12 Atty. Fred Nov 15th, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Ms.A, there’s no exact time provided, bt the phrase “live exclusively with each other” will give yoU an idea. Good luck.

  5. 11 Ms. A Nov 2nd, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Hello Atty. Fred,

    does a common-law marriage start with day 1 of living together i.e. in a commonly rented apartment or as of what point? And by what – aside from evident separation – is such a common-law marriage interrupted? I´m asking due to a European friend moving in but also being gone for months to work elsewhere (outside Philippines)? Thanks for your reply.

  6. 10 Atty. Fred Jul 5th, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Jzol,

    Thank you. First off, I’m prohibited from giving any legal advice, so let’s limit this to giving you legal information. As discussed in the article, only the properties acquired by both parties through their actual joint contribution of money, property or industry shall be owned in common in proportion to the respective contribution.  In the absence of proof to the contrary, the sharing is equal. I’m sure that if you ask your bank about this, they will refer that question to their lawyers. I suppose they would say that since the account is under the name of the guy (not a joint account), then it goes to him or to his legal heirs (and that would be the legitimate family and the illegitimate children). Just try to ask the bank and check what they would say. Thanks.

    Jane,

    In general, a father (regardless of whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate) is under obligation to give support.

  7. 9 jzol Jun 30th, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Hi Atty Fred,

    I have an Aunt, she lived with this man for 20 years out of wedlock, because the latter have a prior legal marriage. Now, the man died, left in a bank is a certain amount of money. I would just like to know if my aunt has legal rights to claim the money to the bank, if yes, what do we need to do to have the bank aggreed on this process. Thanks in advance for your reply. =)

  8. 8 jane Apr 3rd, 2007 at 5:11 am

    do i have the right to ask for financial support with my x live in partner? im still 3 mos pregnant? what should i do? he must be feel the responsibilty of having a baby.. hope u can help…

  9. 7 jane Apr 3rd, 2007 at 5:09 am

    do i have the right to ask for financial support with my x live in partner? im still 3 mos pregnant? what should i do? he must be the responsibilty of having a baby.. hope u can help

  10. 6 Atty. Fred Mar 20th, 2007 at 5:05 am

    Kat, I added the full text of Article 148 of the Family Code in the post above. You’ll find the answers there.

  11. 5 katrobles24 Mar 17th, 2007 at 4:16 am

    what happens in this situation:
    man was previouly married and civil annullment is pending for the last 20 or so years (this was not disclosed to 2nd wife), church annullment document was provided and woman marries the man.

    now the man wants leave the current wife to be with another woman after 18 years. Man tells woman that ‘supposed marriage’ is invalid since anullment was not final (man shows up in NSO with 2 marriages) and woman does not have a right on the conjugal propery’. what kind of rights does the woman have with regards to property that came out of the 18 years of cohabitation? and what are appropriate next steps?

  12. 4 Atty. Fred Dec 15th, 2006 at 5:07 am

    Agnes, it really isn’t clear in what capacity is the Japanese a “petitioner” and the Filipina a “defendant”. It’s also not clear if there are two separate relationships (with the use of the terms “prior marriage” and “cohabitation”). There are so many questions that must be answered – but I can’t ask (and please don’t answer) because this is not allowed in this site (please see Terms of Use). I hope you understand.

  13. 3 ms_agnes Dec 14th, 2006 at 3:31 am

    how about if the petitioner is a Japanese national with a prior marriage to a filipina which has not been annuled? is he entitled to get any share from the business and properties acquired during his cohabitation with the defendant (filipina mother of 2)? all loans used for the properties and businesses are made by the defendant. Cash used are from the investors who are enjoying privileges which are being given by the defendant.

  1. 2 Increasing live-in relationships in the Philippines? at Atty-at-Work Pingback on Nov 2nd, 2007 at 8:37 am
  2. 1 Marriage Settlement (Prenuptial Agreement) and Introduction to Property Relations in Marriage at Philippine e-Legal Forum Pingback on Sep 22nd, 2007 at 8:59 am

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