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

172 thoughts on “Common-law marriage (live-in relationships) in the Philippines

  1. Yehuuuuuu

    Pasensya kung tagalog tong tanong ko…
    Kapag po ba di kasal tapos nakisama sa iba ang lalaki. Ano ang karapatan ng babae sa anak, pinansyal at batas na pwedeng ikaso sa kanila…
    Maraming salamat po…

  2. mavcosio

    Hi, I am regular employee (man) and my partner (woman) is a casual employee, working in the same hotel property but different outlets. We are not married, but on a in live-in status with one kid.
    HR doesn’t want to hire my partner to be a regular employee because of conflict of interest?
    there is still a chance right? since technically we are not married.

    Thank you.

  3. Juvy

    Atty Fred,
    I am living with my common law partner,we cannot marry each other for he has his previous marriage and not yet annulled.However, we already have 2 kids ages 8 and 10 and that were living together for almost 14 yrs.My question is that will there be a time that we could be legally married because his previous wife has been to another man and also has her family?Thank you.

  4. Jas

    Dear Atty Fred,

    My partner and I have been together for 14 yrs now and is in a de facto (common law) relationship for 3 yrs and we’re both based in Australia. I recently found out that my partner impregnated another woman in the Philippines. I just want to know if I have any legal rights to sue my partner or his mistress?

    Thank you.

  5. Rommel

    Im seperated for more than 13yrs now and no communicate with my previous wife, we have settle ang agrrement from the PAO and here in our barangay that we are separated, now i have common law wife can we be get married?

  6. Herbert

    I just want to ask if my common law wife for 3 years and 5 mos, has the rights to break up with me because her accusing me that i’m using drugs but i’m not and she has no evidence at all. I just want to know if i have the rights to fight for our relationship as long as she has no evidence of what her accused to me?

  7. rona

    hi po..

    ano po mga karapatan ng babae kun may kalivein partner xa…pede po ba magdemanda kun niloloko xa o pinagtataksilan ng livein partner..salamat po

  8. Grace

    Hello atty fred,
    May I ask regarding the case of my househelp. She and her partner haf been living together for 7 years w/o marriage.They built a house located in a squatter area with their hard earned money. Her partner died last November 2017. WILL the siblings of her partner has the right to have share in the house they built together. My househelp sought the help of the barangaycorrect. Though the barangay is in favor to my househelp she was asked to provide them any legal article to support their decision. As I understand it is the duty or responsibility of the barangay to resolve this case. But due to my concern to my househelp which she is in dire help, I am asking your assistance on how can I help her to solve this problem.

    May you reply the soonest possible time.

    Thank you very much.

    Grace Jimenez
    Rizal st. Brgy zone 9
    Talisay City,Neg. Occ.

  9. Hope

    Hi atty. Fred
    Want to ask which place we can get a affidavit it was the place of my ex common law partner or the place where we stay together . Coz we was staying in my parents house when we are together but he go to other place for work.
    Thank you.

  10. Conor

    I’m a single foreigner living in the Philippines. I had been living with my single Filipino partner and bought a condominium which was in my name from my own funds whilst living with her. I then gave her 1.5m peso to purchase land in her name because as a foreigner I can’t own land. Two months after purchasing the land I discovered he was chatting up an ex and decided to end the relationship. Do I have any claim with reference to the 1.5m I gave her to purchase the land ? Thank you.

  11. Chan

    Atty Fred

    Just wanna ask. Is it possible for a marriage to be void if the couple are no longer together like 35 years? Like they are not legaly separeted but they are not living in the same house for 35 years?

    Is the husband still oblige to sustain his family financialy even if the children are old enough in fact they have there own families already? How about the properties? Btw the husband has new family and he was married to other woman.

  12. Jocelyn

    Hi attorney,

    Tanong ko lang po. Yung tatay ko namatay walang iniwang last will and testament Ngayon May naiwan siyang mga illegitimate children at May kinakasama siya for the longest time. Nagkaruon din sila ng anak pero Hindi sila kinasal. Tanong ko po ano ang rights ng mga anak niya sa mga ari-arian ng aming namatay na tatay? At sundalo rin siya anong percentage ang makukuha ng mga anak at kinakasama? Sinisimulan ma din ibenta ng kinakasama niya ang mga ari-Arian ano ba dapat namin gawin. Pinalabas niya na walang perang naiwan ang aming ama.

  13. Melanie

    Hi attorney Fred’
    May Ka live in partner po ako na Swiss for 7 years, namatay po sya. May arise arian sya..nakapangalan SA IBA..humanity si swiss Ng dummy..Yung dummy nya ay walang rights SA Ari arian nya base SA kontrata na pinaglumaan kasunduan nila.subalit my anak sya na Swiss national.
    Ano po karapatan ko bilang common law wife?

  14. Marie

    My partner and I are in a live-in relationship now for two years. How can we show proof of our live in relationship? Can we execute an affidavit of domestic partnership?


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