Yours, Mine, Ours: What You Need to Know About Conjugal Properties
How does a property become conjugal and what happens to it when a couple separates? We asked a lawyer for inputs.
After exchanging I dos and marking a new chapter together, couples usually invest in their own homes and acquire things like a car, insurance policies, and other valuable items that serve as investments. Do these things automatically become conjugal properties? How does a property or item become conjugal?
According to Atty. Stephanie Chavez-Lacson, “conjugal property applies to married couples only, and generally, the term applies regardless of whether the property was acquired by one or both of the spouses.”
Whether you’re getting married soon or you’ve started making investments with your better half, it’s important to understand the laws concerning conjugal properties in the Philippines. Be guided by Atty. Lacson’s insights below.
What You Need to Know About Conjugal Properties in the Philippines
What is a conjugal property and is it limited to real estate investments?
According to Atty. Lacson, conjugal properties aren’t limited to houses and real estate investments. “It includes those obtained or acquired by either or both of the spouses from their work or profession, or income from the exclusive property of a spouse among others. It also includes life insurance policies and lottery winnings,” she explains.
Excluded from this list are the following:
1. Property acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title as well as the fruits and income thereof—for example, if you were gifted a house and lot during your marriage, your spouse will not be a co-owner of the said property.
2. Property for exclusive or personal use of each spouse, except jewelry
3. Property acquired before the marriage by either spouse who has legitimate descendants by a former marriage, as well as the fruits or income thereof—according to an article on Inquirer.net, this aims to protect the rights of legitimate children and descendants of your former marriage if you have any.
How does a property become conjugal?
As mentioned above, whether the property was acquired by one or both parties, the term applies to married couples. As stated in Article 116 of the Family Code of the Philippines, “all property acquired during the marriage, whether the acquisition appears to have been made, contracted, or registered in the name of one or both the spouses, is presumed conjugal unless the contrary is proved.”
Atty. Lacson further explains that Article 75 of the Family Code provides different property regimes that future spouses may agree on in the marriage settlements. “These are the regime of absolute community, conjugal partnership of gains, complete separation of property, or any other regime. However, in the absence of a marriage settlement, or when the regime agreed upon is void, Article 75 indicates that it is the system of absolute community of property that should govern,” she says.
To put it simply, under the regime of absolute community, properties acquired by the spouses during their marriage is JOINTLY OWNED and they are co-owners of all properties brought into and acquired during the marriage.
What happens to conjugal properties when couples separate or when a spouse dies?
We’ve seen way too many movies depicting couples fighting over properties when the marriage ends—with both of them claiming ownership over houses, cars, and other investments. What does the law say? According to Atty. Lacson, conjugal partnership is terminated when one of the spouses dies, when there’s a decree of legal separation, when the marriage is annulled or declared void, or in case of judicial separation of property during the marriage under Articles 134 to 138 of the Family Code of the Philippines.
“As a general rule, an inventory is prepared listing the conjugal properties. Debts and obligations will first be paid out of the assets and the remainder shall be distributed to the heirs. Whatever is left of the exclusive properties of the spouses shall be delivered to them,” Atty. Lacson adds.
What other problems may arise when it comes to conjugal properties?
In cases when one of the spouses decides to leave or abandon the other without annulment or legal separation, Atty. Lacson says that the conjugal property will not be affected but the spouse who left the conjugal home will not have the right to be supported as stated in the Family Code of the Philippines.
“An aggrieved spouse may file a case in court for judicial separation of property or to be granted the authority to be the sole administrator of the conjugal property,” advises Atty. Lacson. “Before marriage, a couple may also opt for a complete separation of property if this regime will be more efficient and practical for the spouses,” she adds.
Dealing with money, investments, and properties while handling the ups and downs of marriage can be stressful. Atty. Lacson advises couples to have mutual trust and aligned future plans.
It also pays to know that conjugal properties are also liable for expenses such as the support of spouses and their common children and the debts and obligations contracted during the marriage, to name a few. “Couples may also explore the practical considerations of other property regimes in relation to estate planning and tax implications,” the lawyer shares.
To learn more about the Family Code of the Philippines, click here. Special thanks to Atty. Stephanie Chavez-Lacson.
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