one are the days when live-in relationships were tabooed and considered to be a stigma. The changing patterns of family structure indicates an acceptance towards the concept of live-in relationships. Two consulting adults can stay together under a roof and are not barred by law to do the same. A live-in relationship can be defined as a relationship wherein a couple resides together in a house for a long duration without marriage. There is no single law which is applicable on live- in relationships in India.
Live in relationships are not even defined as per the law. No particular legislation decides the issues emerging out of such relationships such as the rights of the couples in the relationship, right of alimony, domestic violence or the legitimacy of the children born out of such relationships. However, the court has decided these issues through various judgments on a case-to-case basis.
- Judicial Response to live-in relationships
- Live-in Relationships and Presumption of Marriage
- Legal Recognition to Live-in Relationships
- Guidelines for a Relationship to qualify as Relationship in the Nature of Marriage
- Status of Children Born out of Live-in Relationships
- Alimony to be paid under Live-in Relationships
- Domestic Violence and Live-in Relationships
Judicial Response to Live-in relationships
The court took a positive leap towards dynamicity of changing relationships and held in Revanasiddappa v. Mallikarjun that, “With changing social norms of legitimacy in every society, including ours, what was illegitimate in the past may be legitimate today.” This statement hints towards an acceptance of live-in relationships. Further, the legal validity of a live-in relationship was recognised by the bench comprising of Justice M.Katju and Justice R.B. Mishra in the case of Payal Sharma v/s Nari Niketan, Allahabad HC wherein the court observed that, “In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without getting married, can live together if they wish to. This may be regarded as immoral by society, but it is not illegal. There is a difference between law and morality.” In this case, the court differentiated in between the societal norms and law.
LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS AND THE PRESUMPTION OF MARRIAGE
In order to avoid misuse through the concept of live-in relationships, the court has decided that long term live-in relationships take the colour of a valid marriage. In Madan Mohan Singh v. Rajni Kant, the court opined that the live-in relationships which have continued for a long time cannot said to be a “walk and walk out” type of relationship and these relationships are to be presumed as marriages. Further, in a landmark judgment in S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal, the court held that live-in relationships come under the purview of Article 21, it is a consenting act between two adults and hence cannot be termed as illegal or immoral.
LEGAL RECOGNITION TO LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment, D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal,held that not all live-in relationships are recognised. However, the relationships in the nature of marriage are the only ones that are recognised. The court further held that it does not recognise “walk in and walk out” type of relationships. The court observed that simply spending some weeks together or a one-night stand together would not qualify as a live-in relationship. Keeping a concubine or a keep just for sexual reasons will not qualify as a live-in relationship.
The court laid down a few conditions that must be fulfilled to qualify as a recognised live-in relationship. These include-
- The partners must be of legal age to marry i.e., 18 years for female and 21 years for male.
- The couple must be qualified to enter into a legal relationship.
- The couple residing together must be unmarried
- Must be cohabiting together for a considerable period of time
The court also clarified that if the relationship is purely sexual in nature, it will not qualify as a live-in relationship.
In another judgment, Indra Sarma v/s V.K. Sarma , the court laid down certain guidelines to bring a live-in relationship under the purview of “relationship in the nature of marriage”.
GUIDELINES FOR A RELATIONSHIP TO QUALIFY AS RELATIONSHIP IN THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE
The apex court laid down the following guidelines which will entitle a live-in relationship to be presumed as a marriage. These include-
DURATION OF PERIOD OF RELATIONSHIP –
the court has specified that the duration of the relationship must be of a reasonable period which varies on a case-to-case basis.
the SC held that shared household is the same as has been defined under Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act.
POOLING OF RESOURCES AND FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENT-
the indicators of this include that the couple must be supporting each other or any one of them, may have a shared bank A/c together, acquired immovable property in the joint name or in the name of the woman, long term business investments, holding/acquiring shares in separate or joint names or any other financial arrangement that indicates a long-standing relationship.
the domestic arrangement must indicate to be that of a husband and wife. The responsibility is entrusted mainly on the woman to run the home, do household work like cleaning, maintaining, upkeeping the house, etc indicating towards the relationship in the nature of a marriage.
– the relationship must not be based purely out of sex. It must be an emotional and intimate relationship, maybe to procreate children. It must be a relationship of care, emotional support, etc.
– parties intending to have and raise children highly indicate that the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
SOCIALIZATION IN PUBLIC
– the nature of relationship the party shares in public also determines their status.
INTENTION OF THE PARTY
– the intention of the party to the nature of their relationship plays a key role in determining the type of their relationship. Their intention defining their roles and responsibilities play a key role in determining the nature of their relationship.
In a recent case, the court presumed a couple in live-in relationship to be legally married and entitled the woman in the relationship to inherit the property after the death of the male partner.
STATUS OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
The Supreme Court has time and again reiterated that the children born out of live-in relationships which is not a walk -in walk out type of a relationship are legitimate. The court in the case of S.P.S. Balasubramanyam v. Suruttayan, held that “If a man and woman are living under the same roof and cohabiting for some years, there will be a presumption under Section 114 of the Evidence Act that they live as husband and wife and the children born to them will not be illegitimate.”
Again, in Tulsa v. Durghatiyta , the court held that the child born out of live-in relationship will not be illegitimate, the only pre-condition for this is that the parents must have lived under the same room and must have cohabited together for a long duration of time. Also, in Bharatha Matha v. R. Vijaya Renganathan, the court viewed in favour of the child born out of such relationship and held that the child must be considered to be a legitimate child and is entitled to inherit the property of the father.
Even though there is no dedicated law on the subject, the court has delineated certain rights in order to avoid misuse of these relationships by the couple. Some legislations are applicable on these relationships
ALIMONY TO BE PAID UNDER LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
After the Recommendations of the Justice Malimath Committee, Section 125 CrPC, which deals with alimony/ maintenance was amended. This amendment entitles the women out of live in relationship to claim maintenance, if the relationship was in the nature of a marriage. The term “wife” was amended in the provision to include women living in a live-in relationship who have been abandoned by the male partner at will. So, if a couple has been living together for a reasonable period of time, then the lady in the relationship can claim alimony under Section 125 CRPC on separation. A presumption will be drawn in favour of wedlock.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND LIVE-IN RELATIONSHIPS
Protection of women from the Domestic Violence Act, is the first act which has given recognition to live-in relationships. Section 2(f) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 includes relationship in the nature of marriage i.e., live-in relationships. As per the provision, Domestic relationship means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.
So, a woman in a live-in relationship can complain of domestic violence.
Since, there is no single statue dealing with live-in relationships. The issues arising out of such relationships are decided by the courts on the basis of facts and circumstances of each case. In order to prevent the misuse of such relationships, the court has guaranteed some rights to the woman in a relationship appearing to be that of marriage.