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Common Law Partners In The Philippines

What Are The Rights And Obligations of Common Law Partners in The Philippines?

Marriage is an institution that is both revered and protected in the Philippines. Having a strong tradition of canon law, the country maintains marriage as the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution. Despite this attitude towards marriage, Philippine law still manages to recognize the practice of individuals entering into relationships without the benefit of marriage and provide for the rights and obligations of those engaged in such a relationship.

In an effort to stamp out the practice of entering into common law cohabitation, article 34 of the Family Code exempts a man and a woman who has lived together for five years as husband and wife and who do not possess any legal impediment towards marriage from the need to procure a marriage license. By dispensing with the need for a marriage license, the law favors marriage by encouraging common law partners to forego their illicit relations in favor of marriage. Previous judicial interpretation of the provision has clarified that the five year period should be reckoned from the day the marriage ceremony was celebrated and should be characterized by exclusivity and continuity.

With regards to property relations within a common law relationship, articles 147 and 148 of the Family Code provide appropriate guidance in determining the property regime applicable. Article 147 applies to common law unions where both partners are capacitated to marry each other. In such a scenario, the law prescribes that all wages and salaries shall be owned in equal shares, while properties acquired during the cohabitation through their hard work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership. The law further states that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, properties acquired during the relationship shall be presumed to have been obtained through the joint efforts of the common law partners even if the efforts of one of the partners consisted in the care and maintenance of the household.

In contrast, article 148 of the same Code applies to relationships where either one of the parties is incapacitated to marry. In such a case, the law provides that only those properties where both partners have made actual joint contribution of money, property or industry shall be owned in common in proportion to the contributions made by each partner in acquiring the property. In the absence of proof to the contrary, it is presumed that the contributions made are equal. In the event that one of the parties to a common law relationship is in bad faith, his or her share in the said partnership shall be forfeited in accordance with the order provided for by the Code.

Article 87 of the Family Code regulates the giving of donations or grants of gratuitous advantage whether direct or indirect, between both married couples and common law partners during their cohabitation. The said provision declares any such act as void except the giving of moderate gifts on the occasion of family rejoicing. The aim of the law is to protect the weaker spouse or partner, who, by reason of love and affection is prone to being unjustly influenced by the other more dominating spouse or partner. In such an attempt, the law suddenly makes a turnabout by extending the advantages given to married couples to common law partners. This approach has been criticized as having the effect of weakening the institution of marriage rather than favoring it over common law cohabitation.

Special laws such as Republic Act 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, likewise provide added rights to women in common law relationships. They as well as their children are extended the same measure of protection and relief granted to married women and their legitimate children. This is without any form of distinction on the basis of their relationship.

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