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

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

  1. jeka

    good pm i lived in the same roof for 15 years i caught them together do i have the right to file the cases to them even though we are not married

  2. Roxanne

    Atty, i have been with my live in partner for 8yrs and have a so n. Given that we have been together for 8yrs, does that mean that we are covered by the common law of marriage and is considered as husband and wife where the same law and rules apply to us as if we are legally married?

  3. neneng

    my mom and dad are live in partners for almost 21 years pero may kabit si dady and sinasabi ng dad ko sa kabit nya na di sila kasal ng mama ko.
    may karapatan bang umasta ang mama ko at kami as a legal na pamilya?? pinang hahawakan kasi ng kabit ng dad ko na di daw kasal dad ko at mama ko..
    any action or article para mapatunayang mas may laban kami?

  4. nell

    atty. Have a nice day. i am separated for my wife 9yrs ago and have son to her, since before i dont have regular income i did not support my son regularly, i just gave him 1,000 pesos evrymoht and sometimes when i have money i but him toys and other stuff, but now i am ofw my salary income is only 20k pesos, not included my foods here and my other oblige expenses, its ok to just give 2k pesos regulary to my son? he is now on 11 age? and my second question is after the separation i have before common law wife, when i am here in abroad i give him all my salary but since she separated in me 1yr ago i did not give money anymore, because we buy house i just pay the down payment and she just continue the monthly amortization, we buy that when i am in philippines, after we seprated she own the house without giving me any cents, and now she is doing to leave our house and rent it others. this two woman giving me stress on how to do? pls give me some advice. thank you

  5. Janet

    Dear Attorney,
    May live-in partner ako for 6 yrs. Last Nov. 10, 216, he died. I am the beneficiary of his pension and insurance. Before I forget, he worked before in US as Sheriff. I called his retirement office to ask what are the requirements to get his pension and their general manager told me that they need a document where it can prove that we are registered partners. Here in the Phils., there is no such document. Can you pls. help me what and how to provide this document that they are asking with me. Thank you very much in advance and looking forward for your reply.

  6. Elizabeth

    Good afternun sir im elizabeth morante meron po akong kalive-in partner for 10 years may 2015 pi kame nag sama nagkaroon po kame ng 3 anak mag two two years na po kameng hindi nag sasama at hindi rin po sya nag bibigay ng sustento sa mga anak nya ano pong kaso ang dapat kong isampa sa kanya o kung ano man po ang pwde kong gawin para po makapag bigay sya ng sustento. Hirap na hirap na po kasi ako sa gastos tatlo po ang aming anak.maraming salamat po

  7. Anonymous

    Hi Atty,

    My common law wife is having relationship with another man. If ever I got evidence of them will I be able to file an adultery case against them? We have a 1-year old daughter and I want to know if I can have the full custody of my daughter? Would photos of them together be sufficient enough to file the case? What other things do I need to get custody of my daughter?

    Please help me.

    Thank you.

  8. Grace

    Good Day Atty!

    My boyfriend and I was 1 year and 5 months in a relationship. We live together for 5 months but we need to live separately because my work is in cavite while him was here in Manila. We are legal on both sides of our families. So we and our parents considered as husband and wife and we plan to get marry this 2017. I also got pregnant last year but the baby needs to be removed due to ectopic pregnancy.
    This January 2017, i went to our province to have a vacation. Our relationship was very ok. Until a sudden change from my husband was visible so I go back to Manila.
    I found out that he has a relationship with his colleague. I have some evidences because my former classmate saw them holding hands and very sweet as a couple. I also found out that this girl, slept over to his boarding house for more than one night.
    I asked them if they have a relationship but they keep on denying it even i told them that i have some witnesses.
    Atty, do i have the right to file a case against them? if yes, what case can i file to them ?


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