“In the absence of a marriage settlement or if the property relation agreed upon is void, absolute community of property shall govern”
When a couple agrees to enter into the permanent union of marriage, their property relations shall commence at the precise moment the marriage is celebrated (Article 88, Family Code).
While this may be the least of their concerns at that point, their property relations will be an important factor when they decide to purchase a house, invest in business, end their marriage, or when one of them dies.
The property relations of the spouses shall be governed in the following order of precedence: (a) the marriage settlement executed before the marriage; (b) the provisions of the Family Code; and (c) the local custom (Article 74, Family Code). In this case, the marriage settlement shall be in writing, signed by the parties, and executed before the celebration of the marriage (Article 77, Family Code).
In the absence of a marriage settlement or if the property relation agreed upon is void, absolute community of property (ACOM) shall govern (Article 75, Family Code).
For the pre-nuptial agreement to affect third persons, it must be registered with the local civil registry where the marriage contract is recorded and in the proper registries of property (Article 77, Family Code).
Any agreement on the property relations for a future marriage shall be void if the marriage does not take place (Article 81, Family Code).
The conjugal partnership of gains (CON-P), another form of property relation, will apply only if there is a marriage settlement between future spouses.
It is interesting to note that before the effectivity of the current Family Code on August 3, 1988, the governing property relation between spouses in the absence of a marriage settlement was CON-P and not ACOM.
Once marriage is celebrated, ACOM shall consist of all the properties owned by the spouses at the time of the celebration of the marriage and those acquired thereafter (Article 91, Family Code).
For instance, if a rich lady marries a man whose only possession is a motorcycle, the marriage will result in the husband becoming co-owner of all the properties of the wife.
The properties acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title such as donations or inheritance, with or without a will, shall be excluded from the ACOM.
However, it will form part of the ACOM if the donor, testator, or grantor expressly provides or declares it to be so (Article 92, Family Code).
Also excluded from the ACOM are properties for the personal or exclusive use of either spouse.
Examples are their personal wardrobe, electronic gadgets, and personal care products. However, jewelry or any personal properties of value shall form part of the ACOM (Article 92, Family Code).
The administration and enjoyment of the ACOM shall belong to both spouses jointly.
In case of disagreement, the husband’s decision will prevail, subject to the recourse of the wife to the court within five years from the date of the contract implementing the husband’s decision (Article 96, Family Code).
In the event that one spouse in incapacitated, the other spouse may assume the sole power of administration.
The power to administer does not include the disposition or encumbrance of any of the properties without the authority of the court or the written consent of the other spouse (Article 96, Family Code).
The ACOM shall be liable for the support of the spouses, their common children, and the legitimate children of their spouse.
The support of illegitimate children shall be governed by the provisions on Support (Article 94, Family Code).
The ACOM shall also be liable for the debts and obligations contracted during the marriage by the designated administrator-spouse for the benefit of the community, or by both spouses, or by one spouse with the consent of the other.
Debts and obligations that benefited the family but were without the consent of the other spouse shall be the liability of the ACOM (Article 94, Family Code).
The expenses of either spouse for the completion of a professional or vocational course shall be shouldered by the ACOM.
This extends to the expenses of the common legitimate children, for the exclusive purpose of completing a professional course for self-improvement (Article 94, Family Code).
If a spouse commits a crime or a negligent act that causes injury or damage to another, the ACOM may advance the payment for the erring spouse, in case the exclusive property of the latter is not sufficient.
Payments advanced shall be deducted from the share of the erring spouse upon liquidation of the ACOM (Article 94, Family Code).
A spouse who loses in any game of chance such as lottery, casino betting, or online gambling, whether permitted or prohibited by law, shall be borne by the loser and shall not be charged to the ACOM.
However, any winnings shall form part of the ACOM (Article 95, Family Code).
Donations of funds or properties of the ACOM by one spouse should be with the consent of the other.
However, either spouse may, without the consent of the other, make moderate donations for charity, on occasions of family rejoicing, or family distress (Article 98, Family Code).
The ACOM terminates: (a) upon the death of either spouse; (b) when there is a decree of legal separation; (c) when the marriage is annulled or declared void; or (d) in case of judicial separation of property during the marriage (Article 99, Family Code).
Mere separation in fact of the spouses shall not affect or terminate the ACOM (Article 100, Family Code).
If the spouses are separated in fact and the consent of the other to any transaction is required by law, judicial authorization must be obtained by the concerned spouse in a summary proceeding (Article 100).
A spouse is deemed to have abandoned the other when he or she has left the conjugal dwelling without intention of returning (Article 101, Family Code).
The foundation of marriage is love, respect, and affection, but it is a certainty that any family will incur expenses and debt.
These growing financial obligations may melt or mold their family relationship.
Only if they are aware of their property relations as spouses as well as their obligations under the law can they effectively administer their community properties.