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Live in Relationship: Indian and International Perspective

Live-in relation or unmarried cohabitation of a man with a woman has been the focus of many social as well as legal researchers in last two decades. Increase in the acceptance of this new living arrangement by youth has also been a concern for historians to research that whether such a living arrangement or any similar concept was prevalent at any times throughout the human civilization. Past experiences lead us to a better future hence it is important to explore the canvas of human development that any concept which is new to us is actually a new concept or is a forgotten concept.

It is being truly said that the only thing which is constant in this world is change. The Indian society has observed a drastic change in its living pattern in the past few years. People are slowly and gradually opening their minds towards the idea of pre-marital sex and live-in relationships. However, this change has been continuously under criticism and highly discussed as such concepts lack legality and acceptance by the society.

Unlike marriage, in live- in relationships couples are not married to each other but live together under the same roof that resembles a relation like marriage. In other words, we can say it is a cohabitation. In India, only those relations between a man and a woman is considered to be legitimate where marriage has taken place between the two based on existing marriage laws otherwise all other sort of relationships are deemed to be illegitimate.

The reason behind people choosing to have a live-in relationship is to check the compatibility between couples before getting legally married. It also exempts partners from the chaos of family drama and lengthy court procedures

in case the couple decides to break-up. Whatever the reason, it is very evident that in a conventional society like ours, where the institution of marriage is considered to be sacred an increasing number of couples choose to have a live-in relationship, even as a perpetual plan, over marriage. In such circumstances, many legal and social issues have arisen which have become the topic of debate.

With time many incidents have been reported and seen where partners in live-in relationships or a child born out of such relationship have remained vulnerable for the very simple reason that such relationships have been kept outside the realm of law. There has been gross misuse by the partners in live-in relationships since they do not have any duties and responsibilities to perform

Historical Exploration Of Concept Of Live-In Relationship

The phrase live-in-relation might be a newly coined term in post-modern India, but this relationship can be traced back to origin of humans i.e. Adam and Eve. They could be termed the first non-married couple in history. As the institution of marriage did not exist then, neither Adam nor Eve was aware of the status of their relationship.

Their relationship in the midst of nature survived basically on their interdependence on each other and the Darwinian battle for survival of the fittest which drove them to live-together. Neither marriage rituals, mandatory symbols of marriage like the proverbial wedding ring, the mangal sutra back this union of souls, nor a marriage registration certificate.

A bite on the apple of desire changed everything forever. The fig leaf gave birth to the first two decent human beings on earth, bringing along the selfish need for security and stability in the relationship, culminating in the birth of the institution of marriage. Different cultures, different regions have its own theory and expression of union formations throughout the world. There are different forms of marriage rituals and ceremonies in the world.

The variety of relationship formation in the world drives us to explore the different concepts which are like the concept of non-marital relations or live-in relationship. The rise in the non-marital relationships in the developed and most of the developing countries also makes it necessary to explore the history of these relationships so that we could fully understand the reasons and conditions which were responsible for this new form of relationship formation. Different countries and regions has its own history and theory of origin of non- marital relationships as following:
  1. Doctrine of Common Law Marriage

    The doctrine of common-law marriage presumes the marital status of a couple and does not require solemnization or registration. Instead, any unmarried couple of a man and a woman that agrees to live together as husband and wife and do so and holds themselves out to the community as spouses, are treated as married for all purposes. The doctrine functioned primarily to protect women at the end of long relationships of dependence; if they qualified, courts would grant them all the rights of a wife or widow. The doctrine of common law marriage was similar to contemporary long term cohabitation.
  2. The Rise of Common Law Marriage

    New York became a common law marriage state with Chancellor Kent's 1809 opinion in Fenton v. Reed, applauding informal marriage i.e. relationship that was neither solemnized before any authorized officiant nor celebrated in near and dear in general, but following the pattern of legally married couple. The precise requirements for a common law marriage varied among the states that recognized the doctrine.

    All recognizing states, however, agreed with Chancellor Kent that a marriage contracted per verba de presenti, with words of present consent, was valid and binding. It was in 1877 that the debate over common law marriage was considered in the nation's highest court in the matter of Meister v. Moore. In this case the court added its approval in favor of the doctrine of common law marriage and recognized a growing consensus among courts and commentators on the doctrine.
  3. The Social Context of the Common Law Marriage

    The nineteenth century documentation of the common law marriage cases establishes the historical present of the number of heterosexual couples under relationships outside the legal boundaries of marriage. However, within the social norms of marriage, few of these extralegal relationships still exists and some others, though, conformed to neither the legal nor the social norms.

    These cases unfortunately give restricted insights into pasts of the choices that parties lay and from these case laws it is particularly difficult to deduce matters of subjective understanding. However one element that is clear from subjective understanding of these cases is that courts were alert to the social reality parading before them when confronted with common law marriage cases.

    The nineteenth-century judges recognized that though legal practice of marriage was not in ideology a highly contested one, in practice, it is in the diversity of relations presented to them in a society, a society in which the socio-economic class is likely to bring common law marriage suits. Thus throughout the nineteenth century the common law marriage cases provide the diversity of heterosexual unions and diversity of relationships.

    This diversity acclaims how different communities viewed legal marriage at that and how community norms varied tremendously across decades and geographical regions. Thus with respect to patterns of non-marital couples there appear to be a class-salient story. The unavailability of divorce enhanced the self-executed dissolutions of failed relationships and the subsequent informal remarriages as a remedy for unhappy marriages.

Historical Context In Relation To India

A revolution is evident in Indian society from arranged marriages to love marriages and now to �live-in relationships�. These relationships are visible in metropolitan cities and men and women working in the Business Process Outsourcing industry are prostrate to enter into such relations. India is a country, which is welcoming western ideas and lifestyles and in present scenario one of the most crucial episodes amongst these lifestyles is the concept of non-marital live-in together i.e. live-in relationships.
  1. Vedic Period
    According to Manu, in the Vedic period and afterwards premarital relationships existed but were of rare occurrence. Thus the concept of live-in together before marriage is not new in India; live-in relationship was always present in the society. Though the marriage was a general norm in ancient India the Hindu scriptures illustrate and concede the existence of premarital relationships as well.

    The term �Live-in relationship� might be new but the concept is ancient. In the Vedas, we find acknowledgement of eight types of marriages i.e. Brahma Marriage, Daiva Marriage, Arsha Marriage, Prajapatya Marriage, Asura Marriage, Gandharva Marriage, Rakshasa Marriage, and Paisacha Marriage. Gandharva marriage, one of the eight forms of Hindu marriages, has incidents which are quite similar to that found in a live-in relationship.

    From the Vedic age, the Gandharvas were well-known for their amorous disposition, and a marriage which was consummated before the due performance of the sacred rituals, naturally came to be known after them. Authorities are not agreed as to whether love unions should be included within the category of approved marriages.

    The Baudhayana Dharma Sutra refers with approval to the view of some thinkers that love unions ought to be commended, as they presuppose reciprocal attachment. The Kamasutra regards them as ideally good; so also did an earlier thinker named Angiras, quoted by Bhavabhuti in the Malati-Madhava. The Mahabharta in one place included the

    Gandharva union within the group of approved marriages. Manu seems to be indecisive in the matter. The same is the case with Narada. He declines to place Gandharva Marriage either among the approved or among the blameworthy forms and calls it Sadharana or ordinary. Later writers disapprove both the Gandharva marriage and the self-choice by the bride (suyamvara).

    In Gandharva form of marriage a man and a woman mutually decides to live together. This neither involves the family of the couple nor a particular ritual to solemnise the marriage. It is just a verbal commitment. But it still comes under the purview of marriage. Although a couple was united by means of a Gandharva vivaaha, the commitment and responsibility was identical to any of the other types of marriages ordained in the traditional texts.

    The Gandharva form of marriage described in Vedas is similar to concept of cohabitation in western world where a man and woman mutually agrees to live together in sexually intimate relationship without going for the solemnization of marriage as per rituals.

    According to Apastamba Grhyasutra, an ancient Hindu literature, Gandharva marriage is the method of marriage where the girl selects her own husband. They meet each other of their own accord, consensually agree to live together, and their relationship is consummated in copulation born of passion. This form of marriage did not require consent of parents and anyone else.

    According to Vedic records, this is one of the earliest and common form of marriage in Rig Vedic times. The marriage of Dushyant and Shakuntala is an example from history of this class of marriage. In Mahabharata, one of two major epics of Hindus, Rishi Kanva- the foster father of Shakuntala recommends Gandharva marriage with the statement that the marriage of a desiring woman with a desiring man, without religious ceremonies is the best marriage.
  2. Medieval India
    In ancient times usually when wife was unable to bear child, concubines have served to give birth to significant offspring. However in Medieval times, concubinage also enjoyed legal tolerance between two unmarried people similar to the status of common-law-marriage. Though the practice of concubinage had been common in various cultures throughout history but the social and legal status of concubines has varied ranging from sexual slavery to common-law-marriage.

    These differences have continued to contemporary times. It was the time of the advent of Muslims in India. In medieval Muslim society sex slavery and concubinage became almost interchangeable terms and concubinage of unmarried people or their cohabitation lost the valuation akin to common-law-marriage.
  3. Modern India
    In modern India with the advent of social reformers and British Indian Laws the movement for elimination of evil practices were stared which resulted in decrease in the relations of concubinage and other evil practices in Indian society, however, it cannot be said that such practices vanished.

    The practice of keeping concubines was in existence even after the independence of India. Gujarat for a long time had a friendship contract entered into voluntarily between a man and a woman, which provides that the woman would exercise no claim on the man during or after the relationship beyond friendship.

    Formally they were known as �maitray karaars� in which people of two opposite sex would enter into a written agreement to be friends, live together and look after each other. These relationships are called and stigmatized as socially ambiguous and sexually exploitative relationships. The man in such relationships was always married and the woman was a single woman who was also responsible for the sustenance of her parental family.

    Since she presumes that she could never marry her family willingly consents to such a contract because this was the only way she could enjoy a physical relationship with a man and no questions asked. When the story of maitray karaar blew up in the media many years ago, it was declared illegal and the contract became not even worth the stamp paper it was typed on.
All though the subject live-in relations may be new to the world but ancient Vedic astrology is adequately empowered to deal with the topic in which two people decide to live together on a long term or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship without marrying each other.

Concept Of Live In Relationship

Live-in-relationship is a living arrangement in which an unmarried couple lives together under the same roof in a long term relationship that resembles a marriage. This is nowadays being taken as an alternative to marriage especially in the metropolitan cities. Although there is no legal definition of living together, it generally means to live together as a couple without being married. This form of living together is not recognized by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or any other statutory law.

The Indian law does not provide any rights or obligations on the parties in live relationship. The status of the children born during such relationship is also unclear and therefore, the court has provided clarification to the concept of live in relationships through various judgments.

In India, there exists only one kind of relationship between an unrelated couple of a male and female and that is Marriage. Marriage, also called as matrimony or wedlock, is a socially/ritually recognized union or contract between spouses that establishes certain rights and legal obligations towards each other. Marriage is more of a sacrament and a divine concept and has been practiced since ages. But for number of reasons, this concept is losing its divineness. Love cannot be the only reason to marry.

Sometimes in arranged marriages couples do get married but have no compatibility and marriage becomes more or less a compromise. While the institution of marriage promotes adjustment; the foundation of live in relationships is individual

freedom. Times are changing and we are in the twenty first century. Traditional forms of relationships and institutions are slowly losing their foothold. No more are the notions of celibacy until marriage or even marriage as prevalent as they were. Women and men are slowly embracing other, non-conventional, non-traditional forms of relationships, most of which are still seen as a freak concept b mostly by the older generation, but also a surprising amount of younger generation. As is the case with most new things, it is seen with fear and is not really understood. As an example of this, we can see the paranoia and misconceptions around live in relationships.

Reasons Behind Live-In-Relation:

  1. Couples cohabit, rather than marry, for a variety of reasons.
  2. They may want to test their compatibility before they commit to a legal union.
  3. They may want to maintain their single status for financial reasons.
  4. In some cases, such as those involving gay or lesbian couples, or individuals already married to another person, the law does not allow them to marry.
  5. In other cases, the partners may feel that marriage is unnecessary.
  6. Most of couples go for live-in relations because they hate to be divorced.
  7. Existed marriage is unsuccessful or legal and social difficulties arose in separation.
A group of senior citizens under the banner of Jyeshtha Nagrik Live-In Relationship Mandal Nagpur, led by a former banker Arvind Godbole has formed an organisation for helping those seeking a partner at the fag end of their lives. Vina Mulya Amulya Seva (VMAS) Ahemedabad, the charitable trust which had organised this Senior Citizen Live-in Relationship Samellan, seven couples who met at this alliance meet have decided to enter into a live-in relationship.

The concept had created a buzz in the social and media circles for the openness with which various aspects of taking up a live in partner by those who are alone in their twilight years. This initiative is to reduce the loneliness and the neglect and isolation that many such single senior citizens face in the evening of their lives. This is a welcome move by the seniors.

Marriage Versus Live In Relationship

Today�s India is changing at a pace that was socially unimaginable. Issue like �live-in relationship� that was taken up by the western society is gradually percolating into our social norms. Marriage is just another commitment. If people are shying away from marriages � one reason could be that people are scared of commitments that grow from marriage and are worried.

Every relationship has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Act of Live-in relationship is understood to be without mutual statutory obligations towards each other. Both parties enter into such relationship with full understanding of the situation. Hence awarding maintenance or recognizing rights out of such relation will be equating them with husband and wife. Further long cohabitation leads to presumption of valid marriage which must not be extended to live-in-relation. These couples face some of the same legal issues as married couples, as well as some issues that their married friends never acquainted. Both parties who dare to enter into such relations are all educated class and cannot complain or claim any rights on each other's property.

It threatens the notion of husband and wife and the cognition of marriage that enjoys high level of sanctity when it comes to India. It also tends to crop up adultery, as there is no such proscription that live in partners should be unmarried. Thus, a person might be married and be lived with someone else under the garb of live in relationship.

If the rights of a wife and a live-in partner become equivalent it would promote bigamy and it would arose a conflict between the interests of the wife and the live-in partner. This promotes bigamy, as the person who is getting into live in relationship might be already married. The position of the wife is disadvantageous in such situation. While the right of legally wedded wife remains at stake, the right of live in female partner too does not become secure.

Even if rights of maintenance etc. are provided to the live in female partner, there is no guarantee that she can actually avail those rights. Marriage grants social recognition, but there is no proof of live in relationship; a person can easily deny the fact of live in relationship to evade liability. In sum and substance the rights of woman remains precarious.

The children born under such relationship, although are recognized under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. However, it is submitted that the couples who tend to disobey the socially recognized social tenor cannot be supposed to be people of only one religion or to be the one professing Hinduism. In fact, many a time, because of family�s opposition to inter-religion and inter-racial marriage, couple prefers to get into live in relationship and hence forth circumventing family objection.

Such relationships are fragile and can be dissolved any moment, there is no obligation and bondage, legal position with respect to live in relationship does not portray a discernible image. The social status and sanction as enjoyed by Married Couples is not enjoyed by couples in a live-in relationship.
Conflict is a part and parcel of any relationship.

Judicial Trends Of Live-In-Relationships

The Fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India grants to all its citizens right to life and personal liberty which means that one is free to live the way one wants. Live in relationship may be immoral in the eyes of the conservative Indian society but it is not illegal in the eyes of law. Indian judiciary is neither expressly encouraging nor prohibiting such kind of live-in-relationships in India. The judiciary is only rendering justice in accordance with law in a particular case.

The main concern of the judiciary is to prevent the miscarriage of justice. The judiciary in deciding the cases keeps in mind the social mores and constitutional values. The first case in which the Supreme Court of India first recognized the live in relationship as a valid marriage was that of Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation i , in which the Court gave legal validity to the a 50 year live in relationship of a couple.

The Allahabad High Curt again recognized the concept of live in relationship in the case of Payal Katara vs. Superintendent, Nari Niketan and others ii, wherein it held that live in relationship is not illegal. The Court said that a man and a woman can live together as per their wish even without getting married. It further said that it may be immoral for the society but is not illegal. Again in the case of Patel and Others iii, the Supreme Court has held that live in relationship between two adults without marriage cannot be construed as an offence. It further held that there is no law which postulates that live in relationships are illegal. The concept of live in relationship was again recognized in the case of Tulsa v. Durghatiya. iv

In case of S.Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr.v , the south Indian actress Khushboo Had endorsed live in relationship, 22 criminal appeals were filed against her which the Supreme Court quashed saying that how can it be illegal if two adults live together, in their words living together cannot be illegal. If two adult people want to live together what is the offence? If two people, man and woman, want to live together, who can oppose them? What is the offence they commit here? This happens because of the cultural exchange between people, a special three judge bench of chief justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, Justices Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan

The Supreme Court vi of India had thrown its weight behind live in relationships � a practice that is often frowned upon because of what could perhaps be called miscomprehended notion amongst a large chunk of our population about morality and ethical values. Despite its inevitable failure to change such mindset amongst a sizable chunk of the population, the SCs ruling was rather a significant one because it provided couples living in such arrangement with the much needed protection of the law of the land.

While the year 2010 saw a number of judgments related to live-in relationships, which includes, clear declaration by the Supreme Court that a live-in relationship is not illegal and grant of maintenance to a woman in live-in relationship. Live-in relationship is one of the areas which is under criticism and highly debated regarding its legality and implication on the societal relationships.

Long term cohabitation between two major man and woman has long been equated to a valid marriage. The Courts have taken the view that where a man and a woman live together as husband and wife for a long term, the law will presume that they were legally married unless proved contrary as laid down long back by the Privy Council in the case of A Dinohamy vs WL Blahaman vi. In Inndra Sarma vs. V.K.V.Sarma, 2013 vii

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court has illustrated five categories where the concept of live in relationships can be considered and proved in the court of law.
Following are the categories:
  1. Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship
  2. Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly.
  3. Domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, entered knowingly. Such relationship can lead to a conviction under Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery
  4. Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly
  5. Domestic relationship between same sex partners ( gay or lesbian).

Position Of Female Partners

The status of the female partner remains vulnerable in a live in relationship given the fact she is exploited emotionally and physically during the relationship. Different court judgments have discussed on different disputes pertaining to live-in relationships. The Domestic Violence Act provides protection to the woman if the relationship is in the nature of marriage.

First time by Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the legislator has accepted live in relationship by giving those female who are not formally married, but are living with a male person in a relationship, which is in the nature of marriage, also akin to wife, though not equivalent to wife. This proviso, therefore, caters for wife or a female in a live in relationship. Live-in relationships are now considered at par with marriage under a new Indian law pertaining to domestic violence. The provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 are now extended to those who are in live- in relationships as well.

The amendments intend to protect the victims of domestic abuse in live-in relationships. Section 2 (g) of the aforementioned Act provides that a relationship between two individuals who live together or have lived together in the past is considered as a domestic relationship. A woman who is in a live-in relationship can seek legal relief against her partner in case of abuse and harassment. Further, the new law also protects Indian women who are trapped in fraudulent or invalid marriages.

In June, 2008, The National Commission for Women recommended to Ministry of Women and Child Development made suggestion to include live in female partners for the right of maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure. This view was supported by the judgment in Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others viii .

The positive opinion in favour of live in relationship was also seconded by Maharashtra Government in October, 2008 when it accepted the proposal made by Malimath Committee and Law Commission of India which suggested that if a woman has been in a live-in relationship for considerably long time, she ought to enjoy the legal status as given to wife. However, recently it was observed that it is divorced wife who is treated as a wife in context of Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure and if a person has not even been married i.e. the case of live in partners, they cannot be divorced, and hence cannot claim maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

Section 125 Cr.P.C. provides for giving maintenance to the wife and some other relatives. The word `wife' has been defined in Explanation (b) to Section 125(1) of the Cr.P.C. as follows; Wife includes a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from, her husband and has not remarried.

It was stated:
Law inclines in the interest of legitimacy and thumbs down whoreson or fruit of adultery.

Four important grounds are laid for live-in relationship to be recognized as a relationship in the nature of Marriage. When a live-in partner satisfies these four conditions in addition to living together under one roof, only then a deserted woman can seek Maintenance. This judgement is drawn the Ruling of a California Court in the US which had ordered similar relief by invoking the doctrine of a Palimony.

These four conditions are:
  1. A live-in couple must hold themselves out to Society as being akin to spouses.
  2. They must be of legal age to marry.
  3. They must be unmarried or
  4. Be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage.
They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to World as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time. But, in Varsha Kapoor vs UOI & Ors. ix, the Delhi High Court has held that female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage has right to file complaint not only against husband or male partner, but also against his relatives. At present there is no existing legal framework which regulates the concept of live in relationships in India.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 does not recognise live in relations and nor does the Code of Criminal Procedure of India. The only act which has implied the existence of live in relationships is the protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDV). For the purpose of protection and maintenance to women, an aggrieved live in partner may be granted alimony under the act.

A bare reading of this Act reveals to us the following: Section 2(f) of the Act defines a domestic relationship to mean 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. The phrase in the nature of marriage covers in its ambit live in relations or cohabiting. Unfortunately, it has not been defined in the act but left to the courts for interpretation.

The Supreme Court in the case of D.Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal x, held that, a relationship in the nature of marriage under the 2005 Act must also fulfil some basic criteria. Merely spending weekends together or a one night stand would not make it a domestic relationship. It also held that if a man has a keep whom he maintains financially and uses mainly for sexual purpose and/or as a servant it would not, in our opinion, be a relationship in the nature of marriage.

The Supreme Court further opined that the Parliament has drawn a distinction between the relationship of marriage and the relationship in the nature of marriage, and has provided that in either case the person is entitled to benefits under the Domestic Violence Act,2005 (PWDV).

The court reflecting upon live-in relationships becoming frequent in India, the Court has pointed out that no legal entitlements occur by such relationship. It is clear that no maintenance is available to a concubine under law in India.

The Supreme Court was dealing with the claim of maintenance by a woman claiming to be a wife in view of a live-in relationship for some year (about which we have already written noting a High Court decision). The Court ruled that the concept of palimony which applied to such relationships was not recognized in India and even though the Domestic Violence Act recognized live-in relationship to some degree, not all such relationships were entitled for maintenance unless they satisfied the conditions stipulated by the Court.

In the Act of 2005, the Parliament has taken notice of a new social phenomenon which has emerged in our country known as live-in relationship. This new relationship is still rare in our country, and is sometimes found in big urban cities in India, but it is very common in North America and Europe. It has been commented upon by Supreme Court in the case of S. Khushboo vs. Kanniammal & Anr) xi.

The recent judgment of the Supreme Court Indra Sarma vs. V.K.V.Sarma, in 2013 the Supreme Court has clarified several points and given a few guidelines to be followed in the absence of a dedicated law. These guidelines will serve the purpose of bringing such relationships under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

The Supreme Court illustrated five categories where the concept of live in relationships can be considered and proved in the court of law.
Following are the categories:
  1. Domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried. It is the most uncomplicated sort of relationship
  2. Domestic relationship between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly.
  3. Domestic relationship between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, entered knowingly. Such relationship can lead to a conviction under Indian Penal Code for the crime of adultery
  4. Domestic relationship between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly
  5. Domestic relationship between same sex partners ( gay or lesbian).
The Court stated that a live-in relationship will fall within the expression relationship in the nature of marriage under Section 2(f) of the Protection of women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and provided certain guidelines to get an insight of such relationships. Also, there should be a close analysis of the entire relationship, in other words, all facets of the interpersonal relationship need to be taken into account, including the individual factors.

Status Of The Child

But at the same time the court has considered important to protect child rights in particular in live-in relationships. In January 2008, a Supreme Court bench that was headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat held that children who are born out of live-in relationships will not be considered illegitimate.

In August 2010, the Supreme Court held that a live-in relationship that has existed for a long time will be considered a marriage and that the children born to such a couple will not be illegitimate. Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan of the Supreme Court passed this judgment and it will have strong legal implications on disputes relating to the legitimacy of children who are born to live-in partners. xii

International Scenario
  1. United States of America:
    Prior to 1970, live-in relationship i.e. Cohabitation was illegal in US, but went on to gain status as a Common Law, subject to certain requirements prescribed under law. The American legal history is a witness to several consensual sex legislations, which paved the way for living together contracts and their cousins, the prenuptial agreements.

    In USA, the expression `palimony' was coined which means grant of maintenance to a woman who has lived for a substantial period of time with a man without marrying him, and is then deserted by him. Partners in a live- in relationship do not have the right to inherit each other's property, as is the case for married couples. However, property can be willed to each other.

    In Unites States in 1976, the California Supreme Court decided Michelle Marvin v. Lee Marvin xiii, holding that agreements between cohabiting couples to share income received during the time they live together can be legally binding and enforceable. The highly publicized suit between actor Lee Marvin and his live-in companion, Michelle Triola Marvin, was the first of a series of palimony suits that have become more numerous since the 1980s. After their breakup, Michelle Triola legally adopted the surname Marvin despite never having been married to him, and claimed he had promised to support her for the rest of her life. In the end, in Marvin v.

    Marvin, the California Supreme Court ruled that Triola had not proven the existence of a contract between herself and Mr. Marvin that gave her an interest in his property. Thus, the common law rule applied to the situation without alteration, and she took away from the relationship and the household what she brought to it.

    However, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Devaney vs. L' Esperance xiv held that cohabitation is not necessary to claim palimony, rather it is the promise to support, expressed or implied, coupled with a marital type relationship, that are indispensable elements to support a valid claim for palimony, A law has now been passed in 2010 by the State legislature of New Jersey that there must be a written agreement between the parties to claim palimony.

    In Trimble v. Gordon xv, the court held that a signed statement establishing paternity of a child born out of wedlock is adequate protection of the child's inheritance rights. In Braschi v. Stahl Associates xvi, New York State's highest court found the term family should be construed broadly and should encompass contemporary realities, including unmarried adult partners in a long-term, committed relationship that shows mutual sharing of the mundane tasks of everyday life.

    Since the 1980s, a growing number of states and municipalities have passed laws allowing unmarried couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, to register as domestic partners. Some cities have established a domestic partner registry, while others extend certain benefits to domestic partners even if the city does not provide a registry.

    In the USA, the proportion of births outside of marriage has risen to almost 40 percent, according to recent federal data. Couples can agree to a Cohabitation Agreement, which outlines their financial responsibilities towards each other as well as remedies for a split some states have common-law marriage laws.

    These refer to legal marriage by default due to an unmarried couples actions. These normally involve living together for more than a year and presenting themselves to the outside world as husband and wife. The country has institutionalized cohabitation by giving cohabiters essentially the same rights and obligations as married couples, a situation similar to Sweden and Denmark
  2. Canada:
    In Canada, cohabitation is officially recognized as common law marriage. In a lot of cases, the federal law of the country grants common law couples the same rights as married couples. All common law live in couples enjoy legal sanctity if they have lived together for a minimum of 12 consecutive months, or they give birth to/adopt a child.
  3. France:
    In France, a pacte civil de solidarit� or a civil pact of solidarity commonly known as a PACS, is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. From a legal standpoint, a PACS is a contract drawn up between the two individuals, which is stamped and registered by the clerk of the court. Since 2006, individuals who have registered a PACS are no longer considered single in terms of their marital status. Their birth records will be amended to show their status as pacs� (in a PACS) as well.
  4. Phillippines:
    In Philippines, live in relationship couples right to each others property is governed by coownership rule. Article 147, of the Family Code, Philippines provides that when a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co- ownership.

    It mainly concerns itself with properties acquired through their actual joint contribution, which could be money, property or industry owned by them in common. The Family Code expressly governs the property of persons cohabiting without the benefit of marriage. It is required, however, that both must be capacitated, or have no legal impediment, to marry each
    other. xvii
  5. United Kingdom:
    In United Kingdom, both parents are financially responsible for the children whether they were married, co-habiting or separated. Parents do not generally have the inheritance rights over each others property unless they are in the Will. This, however, can be contested. Live-in couples are not legally obliged to support each other financially even if they are sharing a house or raising a family together. Unlike married couples, they are not entitled to receive Maintenance from their partners even if they have lived together for a number of years or given up their career to look after the home and children.

    An unmarried couple can formalise aspects of their status by drawing up a cohabitation contract or living together agreement, which outlines the rights and obligations of the partners toward each other. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community which doesn't have marriage rights can enter into a civil partnership. Every child born to a married woman is assumed to be her husbands child and both have parental responsibility whereas in the case of a live in relationship, the unmarried mother or father has responsibility of a child but can enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the partner for shared responsibility. Both married and cohabitating couples can apply to adopt a child jointly.

    With regard to inheritance, even if there is no will, the child of unmarried or married parents has a legal right to inherit form both parents and families of both parents. If either married partner dies without making a will, the other will inherit all or some of the estate whereas in case of cohabitating couples if one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple owned property jointly. If one inherits money or property from an unmarried partner, they are not exempt from paying inheritance tax, as married couples are. Thus, we see that the concept of a live in relationship has been acknowledged and dealt with in the UK.
  6. Scotland:
    The live in relation were conferred legal sanctity in Scotland under Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. Section 25 (2) of the Act postulates that a court of law can consider a person as a cohabitant of another by checking on three factors, namely:
    1. The length of the period during which they lived together,
    2. The nature of the relationship during that period and
    3. The nature and extent of any financial arrangements.
  7. Ireland:
    Even though living together is legally recognized in Ireland, public opinions are strictly against a new legislation that aims to facilitate legal rights for separated cohabitating couples to demand maintenance and/or share their property with the financially dependent partners. The legislation is applicable to same sex unmarried couples as well as couples from opposite sexes, provided they have been cohabitating for at least 3 years (or 2 years if they have children). The government, with this new legislation, plans to fetch financial and legal protection for financially dependent and vulnerable cohabitants in the event of break up or death.
  8. Australia:
    The Family Law Act of Australia states that a de facto relationship can exist between two people of different or of the same sex and that a person can be in a de-facto relationship even if legally married to another person or in a de facto relationship with someone else.
  9. China:
    In China, there is no legal procedure required to end a live-in-relationship. Children born out to wedlock have equal rights to those born to parents who are married. Contracts are made between couples in a live-in relationship.

Live in relationship has always been the focus of debates and discussions as it is challenging our fundamental societal system. To encourage marriages, Government has reserved many rights for the married people. Although live in relationship is not considered as an offense but there is no law until the date that prohibits this kind of relationship. Courts often refused to make any kind of obligatory agreements between these unmarried couples as this could go against the public policy.

In India, presently there is no law defining live- in relationship. To sum up, let me write what Swami Vivekananda had said:
It is very difficult to understand why in this country so much difference is made between men and women, whereas the Vedanta declares that one and the same conscious self is present in all beings. You always criticize women, but say what you have done for their upliftment.

  1. American Bar Association. 1994. Family Legal Guide. New York: Random House
  2. Dailey, Patricia A. 1994. Domestic Partnerships in the Nineties. Delaware Lawyer (summer).
  3. Duff, Johnette, and George G. Truitt. 1992. The Spousal Equivalent Handbook: A Legal and Financial Guide to Living Together. New York: Penguin, NAL/Dutton.
  4. Ihara, Toni, Robin Leonard, and Ralph Warner. 1994. The Living Together Kit. 7th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo Press.
  5. Richardson, David G. 1993. Family Rights for Unmarried Couples. Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy (spring).
  6. Samuels, M. Dee. 1995. You Don't Have to Be Married to Be Legal. Complete Lawyer (winter).
  7. Wallman, Lester. 1994. Cupid, Couples, and Contracts: A Guide to Living Together, Prenuptial Agreements, and Divorce. New York: Master Media.
  8. Duff, Johnette, and George G. Truitt. 1992. The Spousal Equivalent Handbook: A Legal and Financial Guide to Living Together. New York: Penguin, NAL/Dutton.
  9. Richardson, David G. 1993. Family Rights for Unmarried Couples. Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy (spring).
  10. Chetan Tripathy : Live in relationship�review and analysis
  11. Hindu Marriage act 1955.
  1. Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation, AIR 1978 SC 1557.
  2. Payal Katara vs. Superintendent, Nari Niketan and others, 2001(3) AWC 1778.
  3. Patel and Others, 2006 (8) SCC 726.
  4. Tulsa v. Durghatiya, 2008(4) SCC 520.
  5. S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr, JT 2010 (4) SC 478.
  6. A Dinohamy vs WL Blahaman, (1928) MLJ 388 PC
  7. Abhijit Bhikaseth Auti v. State Of Maharashtra and Others, AIR 2009 (NOC) 808 (Bom).
  8. Varsha Kapoor vs UOI & Ors, 146 (2008) DLT 445 (DB).
End Notes:
  1. AIR 1978 SC 1557
  2. 2001(3) AWC 1778.
  3. 2006 (8) SCC 726.
  4. 2008(4) SCC 520.
  5. JT 2010 (4) SC 478.
  6. (1928) MLJ 388 PC
  7. AIR 2009 (NOC) 808 (Bom
  8. AIR 2009 (NOC) 808 (Bom)
  9. 146 (2008) DLT 445 (DB).
  10. AIR 2011 SC 479.
  11. 2010 (5) SCC 600 vide para 31.
  12. Court Judgments: Live in Relationships and Related Disputes�,< related-disputes>.
  13. 18 Cal.3d 660 (1976).
  14. 195 N.J., 247 (2008).
  15. Decided on Apr. 26, 1977; 430 US 762.
  16. 74 N.Y.2d 201,543 N.E.2d 49,544 N.Y.S.2d 784, 1989 N.Y.
Written By: Junaid ul Islam, PhD Scholar Law, RIMT University

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