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Validity of donations between common-law spouses

Can a live-in partner donate a property their partner? Is such a a donation valid under the law?

Article 87 of Executive Order 209 s. 1987, otherwise known as "The Family Code of the Philippines," provides:

"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 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."

In the case of Maria B. Ching v. Joseph C. Goyangko, Jr., et al. (GR 165879, Nov. 10, 2006, Ponente: Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales), the Supreme Court ruled:

"The proscription against sale of property between spouses applies even to common law relationships. So this Court ruled in Calimlim-Canullas v. Hon. Fortun, etc., et al.:

"Anent the second issue, we find that the contract of sale was null and void for being contrary to morals and public policy. The sale was made by a husband in favor of a concubine after he had abandoned his family and left the conjugal home where his wife and children lived and from whence they derived their support. The sale was subversive of the stability of the family, a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects.

"Article 1409 of the Civil Code states inter alia that: contracts whose cause, object, or purposes is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy are void and inexistent from the very beginning.

"Article 1352 also provides that: 'Contracts without cause, or with unlawful cause, produce no effect whatsoever. The cause is unlawful if it is contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.'

"Additionally, the law emphatically prohibits the spouses from selling property to each other subject to certain exceptions. Similarly, donations between spouses during marriage are prohibited. And this is so because if transfers or conveyances between spouses were allowed during marriage, that would destroy the system of conjugal partnership, a basic policy in civil law. It was also designed to prevent the exercise of undue influence by one spouse over the other and protect the institution of marriage, which is the cornerstone of family law. The prohibitions apply to a couple living as husband and wife without benefit of marriage, otherwise, 'the condition of those who incurred guilt would turn out to be better than those in legal union.' Those provisions are dictated by public interest and their criterion must be imposed upon the will of the parties...

"As the conveyance in question was made by Goyangko in favor of his common-law-wife-herein petitioner, it was null and void."

Pursuant to the aforesaid provision of the law and the pertinent decision of the Supreme Court, donation between spouses during the marriage, except for gifts of moderate value that may be given in connection with an occasion, is clearly prohibited.

As explained by the Supreme Court, such a prohibition aims to protect the property relations between the spouses. Similarly, the prohibition applies to couples living together as husband and wife, even without the benefit of marriage. Considering that the property was donated by your deceased live-in partner to you, such a donation is null and void because it is strictly prohibited under the law.

Source: Manila Times

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