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Conjugal Property: What You Need to Know

What does it mean to be married? When people think of marriage, they may first think of sharing their lives together with someone they love for the rest of their lives. From that moment on, they work as a team so that they can have a better future. Because they now share a life together, they usually begin sharing material possessions, such as a house and lot, a car, or other valuable items. However, some confusion may arise on whether a particular property is owned by one spouse, the other, or both. To answer these questions and more, we must first learn the basics of conjugal property.

What is a conjugal property?

Simply put, conjugal property is property that belongs to both spouses. This may include property that is obtained from either or both of the spouse’s profession, or income from the spouse’s exclusive property.

How does a property become conjugal?

The individual spouses both have a choice on whether their property becomes conjugal property or not, but only before the marriage. Both spouses may want to jointly own some properties while leaving others for themselves. If they would like to specify which property they would like to form part of conjugal property, they will need a prenuptial agreement.

But what about any property obtained after the marriage papers have been signed? According to 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 spouses, is presumed to be conjugal unless the contrary is proved.” 

Essentially, all property that is obtained by the couple during their marriage will always be owned by both spouses.

What is a property regime, and what are the 3 regimes available?

A property regime determines how a couple’s property relations are governed during their married life. If they execute a prenuptial agreement, they have the option to choose their property regime. If not, the default property regime will be applied. Here are the three available property regimes:

·      Absolute Community of Property has been the default property regime since August 3, 1988, which is the date of effectivity of the Family Code. This means that all marriages celebrated on or after this date where no prenuptial agreement was executed by the spouses  are governed by this property regime. Absolute Community of Property, under the Family Code, dictates that all property owned by either spouse becomes conjugal property after the marriage–even those owned by them before they got married.

·      Conjugal Partnership of Gains was the default property regime before the effective date of the Family Code. Conjugal Partnership of Gains still governs all marriages that took place before August 3, 1988, provided that the spouses didn’t execute a prenuptial agreement. This property regime equally divides the net gains acquired during the marriage between the two spouses.

·     Complete Separation of Properties is the option for couples who would rather not jointly own any of their properties. There is no conjugal property, and both spouses continue to own whatever property they already originally owned. A couple can choose this property regime with a prenuptial agreement before the marriage is celebrated.

What happens to conjugal property if the couple separates?

The conjugal partnership is terminated when the marriage of the spouses is nullified, annulled, or if the spouses undergo legal separation. Moreover, the spouses can also file a petition to have the absolute community or the conjugal partnership of gains voluntarily dissolved. Article 135 of the Family Code also enumerates the grounds considered as sufficient causes whereby one of the spouses can institute judicial proceedings for the separation of their property. Finally, conjugal partnership is terminated if one of the spouses dies.

This overview of the concept of conjugal property barely scratches the surface of how to handle property as a couple, whether it be before, during or after a marriage. In the next part of this ongoing series about conjugal property, we will be going into more depth about the types of property regimes available. This way, a marrying couple knows the options available to them in regards to their property.

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