Assets under common-law union co-owned by partners

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I have a live-in partner of eight years. We met in college and dated for two years before we decided to move in together. Although we had plans of getting married, we never pursued them. Our relationship has been shaky since early last year and I think we are on the brink of separation.

I already told him that if we are to separate, I want to get my share in the pieces of property we acquired in the past years. He said everything should redound to him since he is the one working, and I am just at home with our son. Is this true? The thing is, although I have no regular job, I do part-time make-up services. Whatever I gain from that I spend for our family.

Please advise me. Thank you and more power.

Dear Noelle,
Married couples are not the only ones who are governed by a property regime. Under our law, even common-law spouses, or those who are living together as husbands and wives but without the benefit of marriage, are governed by a property regime.

To be more precise, it is provided for under Article 147 of the Family Code of the Philippines that:

“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, [pieces of property]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. x x x”

“Art. 148. In cases of co-habitation not falling under the preceding article, only the [pieces of property]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. x x x”

Applying the foregoing in your situation, we submit that it is not correct for your common-law spouse to say that he is entitled to everything just because he is the one working and you are simply taking care of your household needs.

Accordingly, if you are both capacitated to marry each other, all pieces of property acquired during your union are presumed to be co-owned by both of you in equal shares, unless there is proof telling otherwise (Article 147, Ibid.). It is noted that, “x x x A party who did not participate in the acquisition of the property shall be considered as having contributed to the same jointly if said party’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family household. Efforts in the care and maintenance of the family and household are regarded as contributions to the acquisition of common property by one who has no salary or income or work or industry. x x x” (Ocampo vs. Ocampo, G .R. No. 198908, August 3, 2015).

On the other hand, if one or both of you are not capacitated to marry each other, the property that will redound to each of you shall be in proportion to your respective contributions. If there is no proof to the contrary, your respective shares are presumed to be equal. Note that if one of you is validly married to another person, his or her share will accrue to the absolute community or conjugal partnership in such valid marriage (Article 148, Id.).

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

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Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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1 Comment

  1. Teresito Valdehueza on

    Dear PAO

    I had a live-in partner who passed away last May 2015. We have 4 children. We were physically separated by reasons of work demands as I am a military officer assigned to far places and she worked abroad for intermittent periods. I seldom come home due to the nature of my job, but i regularly send money and allowances for their needs especially for the children’s school requirements.

    Just last 2012, i found out that my late partner contracted an agreement “sangla-tira” with four different people on the rooms of our house that i was an awardee of, without my consent and knowledge. i would like the rooms to be vacated by those people. Would i be liable to the people she had contracts with?

    Thank you and i would appreciate legal advice on what i should do.