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

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

  1. Dwaine

    Hi Atty. Fred,

    Good day.

    Me and my girlfriend have been living together for 4yrs now; my annulment petition has been on process since 2013. According to the Lawyer, the annulment document will be released next month but the date is still tentative. I am currently applying to immigrate to Canada and I declared my girlfriend as my dependent. The immigration Lawyer asked to submit an affidavit of cohabitation to prove that me and my girlfriend are common law partner. Is it possible for me to acquire that document while my annulment case is still not finalized?

  2. Dwaine


    I failed to mention that I was formerly married to another with no child. We filed the annulment case in 2013, and waiting for the result ’til now.

  3. seirra

    I am 43 years old now my partner is 41 years old wre’ve been together for 16 years,his a meletary so my question do I have the rights to fight for my right as his common law wife,cause I have found out that he cheated me but in a melitary way I have the BI PAPERS stated their he ask permission to marry and all said has an approval, ani ang maihahabol kung karapatan..thanx

  4. TDLC

    I wonder if you could give us advice or some information about the right of children.
    My grandfather was married to my grandmother early 1940’s. They have 4 children. They live in a property where my great-grandparents live. After10 years, my grandmother died. In a couple of years, my grandfather remarried again and had 4 children. At that time, my grandfather’s sister decided to divide the land which their parent’s left for them (4) . So 1/4 of that property belongs to my grandfather. On the land title, it says ” My grandfather’s name then married to the new spouse’s name”. The new spouse and their children live in the same house where the other original children live. In 1998, my grandfather died. The 2nd family advised the first children that they owned most of the property since half of that is for their mother and the other half should be divided by 9 including thier mother. So meaning less that 1/4 of the property only belongs to the first children. Kindly let us know if this is right or if possible to guide us to find which Family code or Civil code we need to look. Thanks a lot and I greatly appreaciate your quick response.

  5. Maria

    Hi Atty.
    This refers to the case of my auntie. In 1961 he married to Mr Canete. After 2 to 3 yrs they separated because Mr Canete is abusive to her. After more than 7 years of not living together he met Mr Al, and help him in the
    His studies to become a seaman. In 1989 they married. But Mr Canete died 2 years after their marriage. Thinking that their marriage is valid. They continue or cohabit as husband and wife. Now, 2014, Mr Al died. Now, my aunt was denied by SSS as lawful beneficiary in pension. Was their living together for many years after death of Mr Canete cannot be considered as co ownership. The SSS pension I believe is fruits of personal property which is the monthly contributions. No one now claims the pension. How can pleadI. this


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