Without Divorce, Couples Resorting to Common-law Marriage (Live-in Relationships)

We’ve noted that “cohabitation has become more common than ever before. In fact, more than half of all couples are now living together before they walk down the aisle.” We also noted that by providing for the property relations between the partners in a live-in relationship (also referred to as “common-law marriage” and loosely as “cohabitation”), the law (both the old provisions of the Civil Code and the new Family Code) recognizes the existence of this arrangement in our society.

In a segment for Jessica Soho’s State of the Nation public affairs show (weeknights, 9-10 p.m.) at GMA News TV, I was asked if there’s any advantage of a live-in relationship over marriage. Based on the protection or privileges granted by law (e.g., support, inheritance, paternity leave, spousal testimonial privilege, death under exceptional circumstances) there’s hardly none, as the apparent intention of the law is to encourage the parties to formalize their relationship into marriage.

Any advantage of a common-law marriage over a formal marriage is in practical terms — the parties who may want to get out of the relationship don’t have to go through the process of annulment/declaration of nullity, a process that is quite tedious, lengthy and expensive. This, in fact, is one of the justifications by those who support the divorce bill.

Of course, couples may not be thinking of this practical benefit when going into a common-law marriage or live-in relationship. The intention is to stay together until “death-do-us-part”, just like in a formal marriage. Reality, however, teaches us that couples do separate. Couples in a live-in relationship who decide to separate don’t have to spend a fortune, or wait for a long time, for the decree of annulment, if ever the petition will be granted.

I’m not sure if this is one of the reasons why couples resort to a common-law marriage, although I’m fairly certain that this is one advantage over a formal marriage.

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