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

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

  1. Avanthika

    Is philippin girl can marry a indian boy in philippin country?
    What are the procedures can do for that?
    Is they can marry in any other gulf countries?

  2. Hageau

    May I know the full name of the writer of this article? We are about to use this us our source in our position paper. I hope you’ll response immediately.

  3. mitch

    ask lang po ako,meron po akong kaibigan na hiwalay na po silang magasawa.ngayon po ay nasa canada ang asawang lalaki at may kinasamang ibang babae(kabit) na nasa pinas, at ang unang asawang babae(legal) ay nasa hongkong.ngayon po ay nagfile nang PR ang asawang lalaki.nagfile po nang divorce ang lalaki sa canada para po makuha nya ang magiina nya(kabit).kinikilala po ba ang pagdivorce sa ibang bansa sa pilipinas?

  4. frank

    how can i send my common-law wife out of the house who was caught by my children cheating on me? I am currently in the U.S. taking care of my ailing mother

  5. joanne

    living in for 15yrs with my common law husband he had his first marriage 1990 and his ex wife has her own family living in australia and she got married there.we dont have any child but i have my first child with my past relationship.

  6. Luchie

    My bf is not married but he has a child and he has to live atvthe same house with the girl for the sake of the child. Is there any legal act that can adhere our relationship? Can the girl sue me for that?

  7. Rona

    Hello Atty.
    How about if a one of the live in partner (eg. Husband) dies and the property is named after him. Is the wife entitled to the property.. Or will it be given to their children? Do the government has the right to take the property?

  8. Paul John


    Can I legally make my father in-law leave our house. My wife and her father just cannot live with each other and there have been too many incidents where they would shout and argue. My wife and I have had enough of it and have decided to tell him (father-in-law) to leave. Does the father in-law have the right to refuse to leave?

  9. Cath

    Me and my partner now has a previous marriage. Were almost six years in relationship but were both not annulled and divorced. My partner is married to a filipina woman who was migrated to canada and US for almost 50 years..he is 79 years old now and I”m only 28.Im 5 years seperated with my husband and we have 1 child now also 5 years old. His wife is almost 77 years old and never come back to the Phillipines because their 2 children whose almost 45 years old and 44 is also in the states.So far my partner have acquired his filipino citizenship 5 years ago and never came back to US anymore..Despite of everything bad situiations in line with money and health matters , I never leave him just to let him realized that it was not important to me since I have my own job and when we meet each other were both broken . Im still studying now also at my expense and never ask him for any amount as help..His role is to pay the house rent and our utilities and also our food .Im the one whos taking charge of whatever household chores and whatever inline in the house. First question,Is her wife still has right to him and whatever we had now because even shes naturally born filipino but currently shes no longer a filipino citizen.?Second , Do I have any right to whatever in things were currently having now?, and last , what if I caught him cheating do I have the right to comment , accused him or whoever lady connected to him?

  10. ricric

    Good day!

    There is this woman #1 who is married with man #1 and has children decided to leave them and live with man #2. and for thirteen years they have already children. and later on the man #2 decided to marry another woman. Is woman #1 has a right to file cases with man #2 and his fiance?

  11. Jhalyn

    Common law husband leaves common law wife and children. Common law husband now sees another woman who is not yet annulled. What rights can the common law wife have? and what is the effect of such relationship to the woman who’s not legally annulled?

  12. Rachel

    Hi sir.. if man and women live in in ten years and suddently they decided to separate but they have a business since when they started to live each other.. then the mother of the one party which the women accused him in having affairs with others without any evidence. according to your explanation about this matter what would be the status of the men and if the men have the right of ownership to the financial accumulated with each of them ,what would be the legal action?thank you!

  13. Nesa

    What are other rights of a live-in partner? If the man intends to leave the woman but the woman doesn’t want, what can she do?


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