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

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

  1. lakan

    paano po ang sitwasyon.. may relasyon sila at nag sama sila, nagpakilala bilang mag asawa, dahil yun ang gusto ng isa na makilala sila ng tao. ano ba mga karapatan pa habulin ng babae nung iwan sya ng lalake?

  2. Kathy Jane

    Hi! Good Day!
    would like to ask what if my common law husband had an other woman in the past whom he got pregnant. from then on.. she never stop causing stress and animosities in our family.. it came up to the point that she become physically violent both with me and my common-law-husband.. she keeps on sending messages in facebook, emails, sms etc etc.. all of her dramas, bitterness and ego tripping or whatever she’s doing to mess up our family. Hope to hear an advice from you.. what kind of actions should be taken …


  3. Joe

    Im a US citizen thinking about retirement in The Philippines. If/when I die there I plan on all my assets in The Philippines to go to my Filipina partner (unmarried). My question is about my assets in USA. Does she have a claim on them as well or can I safely leave them to my children. I also do not plan on leaving her without means of support.

  4. Shane

    Hello Atty,
    I just have some question. My live-in partner of 3 and half years died just recently and left some debts and credit here with me.. His a retired US Navy. He still have money on his bank and i could’nt get it. Will filing as a common-law wife would help so i can get the money and pay some bills here in philippines?. Also is any benefits i can get from him? We don’t have kids but he has son in the US of about 40 plus age and duaghter about 35 plus age.. Also i was the spending everything for his burial here in the philippines.. I spoke to his bank they said the power of atty. he made will not be valid anymore after he died, and that i will find a local atty. and file a common law wife. Hoping you could help me sort some things out.

  5. Anne

    Hello atty. Were 1yr. 8months together our situation is im single. And he is divorced in australia but then again he is not yet annulned here in the philippines. Some atty. addviced him to have recognition for foreign divorce to settle/recognize his annulment here in the philippines? Can i have affidavit while his “recognition for foreign divorce” is not yet recognize but he has a copy of divorce paper.? Please email me thank u for your fast answer.

  6. Lucila T

    Can I seek financial assistance to my ex Japanese husband to
    file the divorce here in the Philippines.
    He is already remarried to a Japanese woman..
    Only finacial help..because he divorced me without my knowledge
    and I didn’t sign to the divorce papers…
    Please response..
    God bless.? you..

  7. christian

    Hi… i’m really not sure how to say it.. i just want to know if its possible for me to have the right to have my baby… im a 28yo father.. live in… she has 2 older children aside mine… first born(married) 2nd boy(not married) then mine… my child is still really young.. about a month old..

  8. nheng

    ang kinakasama ko po y isang pnp employee,ofw ang asawa nya,hiwalay n cl ng 6yrs,ang mga ank nila eh ako nangngalaga,my ank kmi n 5yrs,old,6yrs n din kmi ngsasama,,alm ng asawa ny kmi y ngsasama,wala nmn problema sa knya,ngaun po eh hndi kmi in gud terms ng inlaws ko,totoo po b n wala kmi karapatan o mkukuha mn lng sa ama ng aking anak,khit sbhin ng legal asawa n wala problema sknya,,cnu po ang mgdedesisyon.ang mgulang t mga kptid o ang legal n aswa

  9. Krystelle

    i just want to ask if how can I file a case or lets say, is there a bill that protects my right and will let me file a case against may Live-in partner who recently had an affair with another woman? we have a child. please answer and help me. Thank you.

  10. Tom R.

    Dear Atty. Fred:

    I have a friend who have cohabited with her boyfriend but occassionally as my friend also stays with her parents from time to time. They have that kind of arrangement for about 3 months, from December 2015 to early March 2016. Late March 2016, she found another boyfriend and so she formally broke up with her first boyfriend but the latter refused.

    Now, his former boyfriend is telling her that he will file a case against the girl for “adultery” and to her new boyfriend, who happened to be a gov’t employee, for “immorality”. Does the former boyfriend has the legal basis to file such cases?

    Thanks and more power.


  11. charie

    Hi atty fred,

    They been living together for 9years and have 3 children. 1st year of living together his partner committed a sin, he was accused by their maid that he raped her??The housemaid is only. 17yrs old. The relative of the girl demand them that time that they will not file a case if they will give the said amount. The wife[gf) of the accused love him so much that why she did not beleived the girl instead she go to the nearest brgy and file for blotter, that the said accusation is false. At the moment the husband (bf) is now an Ofw the gf help him for the sake of the kids, and forgive her partner. Now she found out that the guy has a girlfriend abroad? the girls was upset because for the 2nd time around the boy betrayed her. Question: If the wants to get even she wants the boy out of his job now, What action she will do???
    2. The girl want to tell his company regarding the said raped accusation. Is this also part of violence against women and child?? Please email me atty for your reply in this situation.

  12. Rhodora

    What if a single man and a married woman lived in for 7 years with out a child of their own could she can claim benefits from her live in partner,or did she has the right to interfere on his income coz they lived together for so many years?

  13. Mr. Lonely

    Atty. Fred,
    Please take time to read my story and tell me my chances of getting an annulment. Thank you very much!
    Farrah and I were 19 years old when we first met in 1996 at FUZEKO POLYTHECNIC COLLEGE. I was in 1styr College and she was in 2nd year taking up Midwifery. In 1997, she went abroad but we were reunited in 1999. I was still studying and have transferred at PLT College. After months of courtship, our relationship has progressed and we became couples. In April 2000, Farrah unexpectedly got pregnant with our child. We were not financially ready then but I was just so ecstatic of the thought of being a father. I believed it was my best graduation present. Along with the excitement brought by Farrah’s pregnancy, responsibility presented itself to me and I recognize it. In July 2000, I decided to go to Manila to work there so that I may be able to provide for my child when he comes into this world.I stayed in Manila to work and I had to endure the pain of not being able to be near Farrah and our daughter. I wanted so much to be with Farrah and our daughter so in February 2001, I came back to our place and worked as a Company Guard.
    We got married in March 22, 2002, officiated by the late Mayor Elpidio. It was held at Farrah’s house. Shortly after our marriage, Farrah told me that she is going to work abroad and is leaving me and our daughter, Rizziah Faye, who is at that time only 1 year and 4 months. I did not want her to leave, especially that Rizziah was very young and she needed her mother. I tried to stop her from leaving but she insisted.
    While working as contractual employee at VRH, I was tasked to take care of my daughter with the help of my mother. Rizziah and I lived with my parents at Quezon.
    In 2004, my wife came back; however, our relationship had been stained with constant bitter quarrels which caused unbearable emotional pains on my part but I never inflicted physical injuries upon her despite her incessant infliction of debasing words making me low of morale and lost my self esteem for many years. She kept on accusing me of cheating which I knew nothing about. She blamed me of having a meager salary and a low profile job. I remember her describing me as “tagakuskos ng inidoro”. We never stayed as one family in same roof or even have a quality time together since then.
    Subsequently, I was a broken mess when Farrah took my daughter away from me. In 2005, Rizziah Fae is already 5 years old when my wife took her to stay with her parents. I was devastated, I had no idea if I will be able to hold my daughter again. Despite all my best intentions and my efforts to take care of our daughter while she was away, she did this to me, take away my right to be with my daughter just because I cannot give her the comfortable life she wanted. This was not something I wanted, and it certainly wasn’t something that I was prepared for. I tried hard to fix things between me and Farrah, to get us back together, but it takes two to make it work. Farrah kept on pushing me away until she decided that it is over and that I cannot do anything about it. I did not have much choice, I cannot force her to stay with me.
    I was dis heartened when Farrah left me and took my daughter away from me. What hurts even more is, after Farrah took our daughter, she went back working abroad leaving Rizziah again. She left my daughter under the care of her parents and siblings. I do not understand why she had to take Rizziah away from me and leave her anyway. I wanted to get my daughter back but her family did not allow me. I made necessary arrangement to habitually see my daughter but to no avail. Instead, I was forbidden to see my daughter.
    For years, I constantly tried to get my daughter back so that we may live together with my parents but Farrah and her family would not let me. It was sad that through passage of time, and because we were not together, Rizziah had also grown apart from me and the relationship that we had before does no longer exist since the day Farrah took her away from me in 2005.
    I tried to find way to steal time with my daughter. Even for just a short while I was able to see her when she is at school. I would try to go see her during lunch breaks. Sometimes I would also go fetch her after her class and I buy her things, I talk to her, I give her food and money just to cope with her. I even drive a tricycle and do my rounds around the school and in their village where she was staying just to check on her, because she’s growing up to be a beautiful girl and I want her safe, it is the least I can do. I remembered this one time when my brother, Elmar, went to fetch her back in Vista Alegre where Farrah’s parents were staying and he saw many male bystanders around the area. After which, he told me that Rizziah is not safe there. I was unable to communicate with Farrah. I was then staying at the Hospital’s Dormitory from 2005 after Farrah took my daughter, because of embarrassment to my parents of my shattered marriage.
    Then in the summer of 2010 after Seven (7) years without communication with Farrah since our separation in 2004, I was taken aback to receive a text message from her, demanding to meet up with her at Capitol. They had a family picnic with my daughter. With the excitement that I have and hope to straighten things up between us, I decided to go and see her and my daughter, although it is already apparent to me that she is living with another man. I’m emotionally beaten but I’m not surprised because it’s been a long time. Farrah was impatient as ever and I keep wondering what went wrong with our marriage. I admit many mistakes on my part especially financial responsibility but what I’m trying to offer to my wife and my kid is the only fruit of my present job, I can’t give her what I can’t have. I can’t steal just to give her the comfort that she wanted. I don’t have any vices to spend my minimum income and I’m doing my very best if only she would give me support and a chance. We argued for the same reason then things got even worse and I left.
    Yet, at least in 2010, I was patiently reaching out to my daughter. She was my inspiration, she is all that I have now. Even my family exerted efforts to get Rizziah back. She occasionally comes with me on holidays to visit her cousins at Saguday. I noticed in the long run, she is now ready to accept me as her father and we are both enjoying our moments together. My efforts to reach out to her were paying off, we are finally growing close and she now recognizes me as her father. What is more, she addresses me as “papa”. I could see how smart my daughter and it made me proud. I understand that my daughter is delicately recognizing me as her father. I remembered on her 14th birthday when we spend time together, I created a special dad-daughter moment, its simple lunch date but something that we both enjoyed.
    Then the hardest and distressing part of my married life turns up in February, 2014. I just arrived home after my shift at VRH, when my phone rang. I was back at my parent’s house at Quezon. A man’s voice on the phone was trying to say something. I struggled to hold back my sobs. Tears were streaming from my eyes, but I really didn’t want to fall apart until I made it into my motorcycle. I was shocked, in denial, confusion and disbelief, all of which because of the impact of my loss. My daughter was murdered in her own room, at the house of her grandmother at Vista Alegre. I can’t totally comprehend what is happening until I saw her body soaked with blood and almost mutilated. A knife is still pierced at her left eye. I was numb, while I was holding my daughter in that state. She’s still wearing her “Majorette” costume during the parade but now it was torn into pieces because of the 23 stabs she agonizingly endured. I cannot believe this, the last time we were together was a day before, she came to me at VRH to show her high grades and we just had burger meal together at the highway.
    I felt guilt and regret for not being able to save her. I felt anger to the person who did this crime to her. Upon asking, I learned that it was Frenson B., my daughter’s uncle, first cousin of Farrah, who caused her death. I was so furious at that time especially when Farrah’s family said that Rizziah was still alive when they saw her but decided not to bring her to the hospital because she will die anyway. They told me she was writhing in pain in her last breaths. I was so ballistic, they could have at least exerted effort to bring her to the hospital or at least have called me earlier. Her grandmother, Madam Auring, Farrah’s mother was not even in the house when it happened. I learned she’s in Manila at the time. They have my contact number. Why? Why is my daughter alone in their house? Farrah was still in abroad during that incident. I began to think of “If only’s”. If only I insisted my rights to my daughter, she would still be alive today. I can’t blame myself because God knows how I tried to get my daughter, how many times I asked Farrah to spare me the custody of our child since she’s always working abroad and cannot personally look after her own child. I told her and they know that I already have a stable job to finance my daughter’s needs and even if it’s not enough, my family can fill it but she would not let me. I know nobody wants what happened, but it was my only daughter, the only love of my life.
    It was never easy on my part. I want to get a life and cannot just wait for nothing. We all make plans for the future, the idea of spending your life with one person and crafting your life together. I’m already turning forty (40), even after the death of my child, Farrah still blame me for everything. I’m emotionally exhausted and days become dull for me. I never wanted this to happen. I weighed my reasons for this decision, it’s been thirteen (13) years, plus the years we were married but not actually staying together, we were never a husband and wife. I am a total stranger to her, gone those emotional investment, if she have at least. She never make plans with me, never had fun together, we can no longer reawaken the sense of fun we had in 1996, never, even though how I tried. It really takes two to make a marriage work. If only she is willing to work with me through all the difficult times, then maybe we had made it possible. And now it’s been Thirteen (13) years of being alone, my life is now consumed with trying to move forward. Farrah is incapacitated to perform her duty and comply with the essential obligations of our marriage, then the death of my daughter and hence, this petition for declaration of nullity of our marriage.

  14. dench

    dear atty:
    please kindly advise,i hav a commonlaw husband for 9years already.we have 2 children.he is an ofw in dubai.lve resigned last 2014 frm my job n dubai because of domestic abuse.last year i went back there after we hav reconciled.but ive seen sex videos of him & his coworker saved in his mobile.i went back to d philippines aftr dat ncident.ive found out aftr a few days from our flatmates dat d slut is living wd him on our room.its bin mur than 1year already.can i file a case to them?
    fyi:he is not yet annulled to his legalwife.
    ive made a facebuk acct.posted pictures of them 2geder.confirming to d public especialy to their coworkers about their affair.d bitch reacted and post to her fb acct daring me to file a legal case against her f am on d right position.even asking me for sakitan.
    ur reply wil b a great help.
    thank u


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