Property Rights Of Live-In Couples & Their Children
The Supreme Court (SC), in 2015, had ruled that an unmarried couple cohabiting for a long period of time would be treated as married and will enjoy the same rights as a legally wedded couple. The verdict came out when an SC bench was hearing a property dispute case where the family members contested that their grandfather’s partner was not really his wife although she had lived with him for over two decades. According to the family, she did not have any right on their grandfather’s property.
Citing previous judgements, the Bench was quoted as saying, “It is well settled that the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage when a man and woman have cohabited continuously for a long time. However, the presumption can be rebutted by leading unimpeachable evidence. A heavy burden lies on a party, who seeks to deprive the relationship of legal origin.”
What does the law say?
The concept of live-in relationships is not accepted under the Hindu Succession Act, Islamic Law or the Christian Personal Law. However, realising that there could be chances of exploitation, the courts resort to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which talks about the legal right of maintenance of the women in live-in relationships.
Property rights of children
Children born to live-in partners are considered legitimate and enjoy all property rights due to them. They have the right to self-acquired properties of parents under the Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
In case, the live-in partners are estranged, the maintenance of children is still a duty of the parents. According to the Hindu law, the father will need to pay for the maintenance while the father is not required to fulfil any such obligation, if they fall under the Muslim law. However, Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, children can always claim maintenance even if their personal law doesn’t favour them. The Section 125 clearly lays out the following:
- If any person having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain his wife, unable to maintain herself or his illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who has attained majority, where such child is, by reason of any physical or mental abnormality or injury unable to maintain itself, a magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal, order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife or such child at a monthly rate.
Also note that mere physical relationship or children born thereafter a short-term relationship cannot be given the sanctity of marriage. In a 2010 judgement, the SC pointed out that a “walk in and walk out” relationship will not be taken as a live-in relationship. As per the Hindu Succession Act, children born out of wedlock are not entitled to succeed their father but are deemed to be related to their mother and through her, other legitimate descendants and can inherit from her and she too can inherit from him/her.
A child born out of wedlock also does not acquire any interest in the ancestral property of the father nor a coparcenary in the joint family but his/her father may choose to give him/her a share equal to that which he gives his other children. However, he/she cannot enforce a partition but children born in a long term live-in relationship will be considered legitimate in every way.