I am getting married before the year ends. My fiancée belongs to a rich family and I belong to a middle-class family. Is it possible for us to arrange our property relations to avoid any conflict someday?
What are the rights and obligations of husband and wife if they have separate properties?
Regardless of the property relation between a husband and wife, their duties and responsibilities are the same as any other couple. Under the law, the husband and the wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support (Article 68, Family Code of the Philippines). These are the so-called personal obligations of the husband and the wife. The word mutual is used in the performance of the said obligations. Thus, in marriage, the observance of respect, love and fidelity must be the responsibility of both parties. Both spouses are bound to fulfill these personal obligations.
The observance, however, of the duty to live together is qualified. Although the husband and the wife shall fix the family domicile, the law exempts one spouse from living with the other if the latter should live abroad or there are other valid or compelling reasons for exemption. This provision is pertinent to families where one of the spouses has to go overseas to work.
Aside from the personal obligations between husband and wife, it is the responsibility of the spouses to jointly support the family. It is not only the husband who is obliged to provide support to the common children. The wife has the obligation also to provide support for the said children if she has a job. It is for this reason that the law allows either spouses to exercise any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity without the consent of the other—so the husband and the wife would be able to provide support to their children.
Anent your query if you and your fiancée can arrange your property relations, the answer is in the affirmative. You can have an agreement that you will adopt the system of separate property regime and you can put that in a marriage settlement. Thus it is significant to quote Article I of the Family Code as follows:
“Article I. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of a conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequence, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during marriage within the limits provided by this Code.”
From the foregoing provisions, you can stipulate with your fiancée in your marriage settlement your wishes regarding your property relation. This is allowed under the law, provided that all the stipulations contained therein will not be contrary to law, good morals or public policy and the same were done before the celebration of the marriage. You may adopt the complete separation of property regime. The separation of property may refer to present and future properties. In this property regime, each spouse shall own, dispose of, possess, administer and enjoy his or her separate estate without the consent of the other. To each spouse shall belong all the earnings from his or her profession, business or industry and all fruits, natural, industrial or civil, due or received during the marriage from his or her separate property (Articles 144 and 145, Family Code). You will however bear the expenses of your family in proportion to your income.
We hope that we were able to address your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com