• Donations between common-law spouses prohibited by law


    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am from Quezon City, and I was born to a Filipino father and a British mother who got married in the United Kingdom before I was born. Since I was born, my parents have lived separately and, in fact, my father has already been living with Charmaigne, his Filipina girlfriend (common-law spouse), ever since I could remember. My father has always treated me well; however, I do not trust Charmaigne, because she has always opposed my interests as a son of my father.

    One day, I was informed by Charmaigne that my father has supposedly donated to her a 3-hectare agricultural land in the province of Bulacan, registered and titled in the name of my father. I do not want to offend my father by confronting him about this, because I have heard somewhere that donations between spouses and/or common-law spouses are prohibited by law. Can you confirm this for me? I want to know if my father, indeed, could legally donate such property to her.

    Dear Charles,
    No, your father is prohibited from donating such real property to Charmaigne considering that they are considered as common-law spouses and, thus, fall within the prohibition under Philippine jurisprudence and family law.

    This policy was earlier established in the 1971 case penned by former Supreme Court Justice Enrique Fernando entitled Matabuena vs. Cervantes (G.R. No. L-28771, 31 March 1971), wherein the SC en banc held, thus:

    “‘x x x While Art. 133 of the Civil Code considers as void a ‘donation between the spouses during the marriage,’ policy considerations of the most exigent character as well as the dictates of morality require that the same prohibition should apply to a common-law relationship. We reverse.

    x x x If the policy of the law is, in the language of the opinion of the then Justice J.B.L. Reyes of that court, ‘to prohibit donations in favor of the other consort and his descendants because of fear of undue and improper pressure and influence upon the donor, a prejudice deeply rooted in our ancient law;’ x x x then there is every reason to apply the same prohibitive policy to persons living together as husband and wife without the benefit of nuptials. x x x So long as marriage remains the cornerstone of our family law, reason and morality alike demand that the disabilities attached to marriage should likewise attach to concubinage.’” [Emphasis supplied.]

    Significantly, this case of Matabuena, supra, has garnered enough support from our legal jurists that it has found its way into our Family Code, and has been exalted into law that has been controlling to this day. This rule may be found in Article 87 of the law, which provides, thus:

    “Art. 87. Every donation or grant of gratuitous advantage, direct or indirect, between the spouses during the marriage shall be void, except moderate gifts, which the spouses may give to each other on the occasion of any family rejoicing. The prohibition shall also apply to persons living together as husband and wife without a valid marriage.” (Emphasis supplied)

    Thus, we confirm that there is indeed a prohibition against spouses donating to one another save for moderate gifts, which the spouses may give to each other on the occasion of any family rejoicing. Conformably with the second sentence of the above-quoted Article 87, this prohibition also applies to your father and his girlfriend, Charmaigne, who are undoubtedly persons living together as husband and wife without a valid marriage. Hence, it is legally impossible for your father to donate his real property to Charmaigne.

    We do find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Thus, the opinion may vary when the facts are changed or further elaborated. We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

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


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