A live-in relationship, also known as cohabitation, refers to a situation in which a couple, often in a romantic or intimate relationship, chooses to live together under the same roof without getting married or formalizing their relationship through a legal or religious ceremony. In a live-in relationship, two individuals share a domestic arrangement, living together as if they were a married couple, but without the legal or social obligations associated with marriage.
Live-in relationships can vary in nature and purpose. Some couples may choose to live together to test their compatibility before considering marriage, while others might prefer this arrangement as an alternative to marriage due to personal, cultural, or religious reasons. It’s important to note that societal norms and attitudes toward live-in relationships can vary significantly across different cultures and regions.
In many places, legal recognition and protections for couples in live-in relationships are limited compared to those in formal marriages. This can affect areas such as property rights, inheritance, healthcare benefits, and child custody in case the relationship ends or if one partner passes away. Laws and regulations surrounding live-in relationships differ from one jurisdiction to another.
Live-in relationships, like any other relationship arrangement, have their own set of advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons). Here’s a breakdown of some of the pros and cons of being in a live-in relationship:
- Compatibility Testing: Living together before marriage can provide insights into how well you and your partner can coexist on a day-to-day basis. It can help you understand each other’s habits, routines, and preferences.
- Better Communication: Sharing a living space often requires improved communication and conflict resolution skills. This can contribute to healthier communication patterns within the relationship.
- Personal Growth: Living together can lead to personal growth as individuals learn to compromise, share responsibilities, and adapt to each other’s lifestyles.
- Financial Benefits: Sharing living expenses can be cost-effective and help both partners save money.
- Emotional Support: Being physically present for each other during times of stress or happiness can enhance emotional bonding.
- Freedom and Flexibility: Live-in relationships can offer more freedom compared to the formal obligations of marriage, allowing partners to make choices based on personal preferences rather than societal expectations.
- Legal Protections: In many places, legal rights and protections for couples in live-in relationships are limited compared to those in marriages. This can affect property rights, inheritance, and more.
- Social Stigma: Depending on cultural and societal norms, live-in relationships might face judgment or criticism from family, friends, or the broader community.
- Uncertainty: Since there’s no legal commitment, the relationship might feel less stable than a marriage, leading to uncertainty about the future.
- Lack of Commitment: Some individuals might perceive a lack of commitment in live-in relationships, which can lead to doubts about the longevity of the relationship.
- Parental Concerns: If the couple decides to have children, there might be concerns about the children’s upbringing and societal perceptions.
- Pressure to Marry: In some cases, living together might lead to pressure from family or friends to eventually get married, even if the couple is content with the current arrangement.
- Separation Challenges: Ending a live-in relationship can involve similar emotional and logistical challenges as a marriage, including dividing shared assets and finding new living arrangements.
It’s important to note that the pros and cons can vary greatly depending on the individuals involved, their values, cultural backgrounds, and the societal context they are in. Each relationship is unique, and what might be a disadvantage for one couple could be an advantage for another. Communication, understanding, and mutual respect are key in navigating any type of relationship, including live-in relationships.
Live-In Relationships In India: Legal But Do They Have Enough Safeguards?
Here are some key points to consider regarding live-in relationships in India:
- No Legal Definition: Indian law does not provide a clear definition of live-in relationships or offer legal protection to individuals involved in such relationships.
- Protection of Women: The Supreme Court of India, in a few judgments, has held that a woman in a live-in relationship can claim maintenance under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This recognizes the financial and emotional rights of women in such relationships.
- Child Custody: In cases involving children born out of live-in relationships, matters of child custody and maintenance can be complex and may involve legal battles.
- Property Rights: One of the main concerns in live-in relationships is the lack of property rights for the partner who does not own the property. In marriage, property rights are more clearly defined.
- Social Acceptance and Stigma: Live-in relationships can still face social stigma in certain parts of Indian society. Families and communities may have varying levels of acceptance, which can add emotional stress to the individuals involved.
- Evidence of Relationship: In legal disputes, proving the existence and nature of a live-in relationship can be challenging. The court might require evidence such as cohabitation, financial interdependence, and shared responsibilities.
- Religious and Cultural Diversity: India’s diverse culture and religious practices can influence people’s perceptions and acceptance of live-in relationships differently across different regions.
- Legal Precedents: Over the years, Indian courts have delivered judgments recognizing certain rights for partners in live-in relationships, including inheritance rights, protection from domestic violence, and the right to maintenance.
- Law Commission Recommendations: The Law Commission of India has suggested that the government should consider enacting a law to provide legal recognition and safeguards for individuals in live-in relationships. However, no such law has been passed yet.
Government rules for live in relationship: It’s important to note that the legal landscape can change, and there might have been developments in this area since my last update in September 2021.
In the absence of explicit laid-down laws and provisions, the courts lean heavily on precedents and interpretations of existing laws to decide cases in front of them.
There is no law specifically addressing live-in relationships, but the Indian judiciary has developed jurisprudence over the years through a series of judgements. According to the SC judgment in Badri Prasad Vs Dy. Director of Consolidation (1978) live-in relationships in India are legal but subject to caveats like age of marriage, consent and soundness of mind.
The question of the legality – or legitimacy – of live-in relationships was relatively simple for the courts to settle as fundamental freedoms are mostly elastic and courts have interpreted them broadly. However, several laws in different aspects pertaining to live-in relationships continue to be too rigid for the courts to extend or interpret them for the benefit of live-in partners.
The legality of live-in relationship stems from the Articles 19(a)- right to freedom of speech and expression and Article 21- protection of right to life and personal liberty of the Constitution of India.
“Right to life emphasizes on the freedom of an individual to enjoy life by all means unless it is prohibited by existing laws. It’s a free society and one can live anyhere they wish to live. In the context of live-in relationships, Right to Life under Article 21 is applicable in a sense that an individual has the right to live with a person of their interest with or without marriage,” says Advocate Debrup Bhattacharyya, who practices at Calcutta High Court to Outlook.
Court verdicts legalizing live-in relationships
The legitimacy of live-in relationships could be traced to the 1970s.
In 1978, the Supreme Court in Badri Prasad Vs Board of Consolidators ruled that a presumption of marriage arises if a man and a woman have lived as husband and wife for a long time.
“A strong presumption arises in favor of wed-lock where the partners have lived together for a long spell as husband and wife. Although the presumption is rebuttable, a heavy burden lies on him who seeks to deprive the relationship of its legal origin,” ruled the SC.
In 2001, the Allahabad High Court in Payal Sharma Vs Nari Niketan ruled that it is not illegal for a man and a woman to live together. The HC also drew a distinction between law and morality.
“Hence, she is a major [adult] and she has the right to go anywhere and live with anyone. In our opinion, a man and a woman, even without getting married can live together if they wish. This may be considered immoral by society but it is not illegal,” said the HC.
In 2006, the Supreme Court in Lata Singh Vs State of UP ruled that two persons of opposite sex living together are not doing anything illegal. In 2010, the SC in S. Khushboo Vs Kanniammal & Another. reiterated the 2006 verdict and noted “A live-in relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offense (with the obvious exception of ‘adultery’), even though it may be perceived as immoral”.
The adultery exception is also invalid now as adultery was decriminalized in Joseph Shine Vs Union of India in 2018 by the Supreme Court.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in Indra Sarma vs VKV Sarma ruled that the woman partner in a live-in relationship is protected under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, 2005.
Rights of partners in live-in relationships
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that women are protected under the PWDV Act, 2005 as live-in relationships fall under Section 2(f) of the law which defines a domestic relationship.
It defines domestic relationship as “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 SC ruled that live-in relationships fall under “a relationship in the nature of marriage” mentioned in the sub-section.
In 2010, the Supreme Court in Velusamy Vs D Patchaimal laid down criteria for live-in relationships to be legal, which is the closest to the ‘codification’ of the question of live-in relationship, in the absence of any specific law on the subjects.
The Supreme Court laid down the following criteria:
The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses
They must be of legal age to marry
They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried
They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time
Therefore, certain live-in relationships, where two married persons or one married and another unmarried person are staying together, do not have legal basis.
Women are also eligible for alimonies in live-in relationships, according to the 2016 Punjab High Court judgement in Ajay Bhardwaj Vs Jyotsana case.
Advocate Bhattacharya tells Outlook, “Initially, Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) only allowed a married woman, who is unable to pay for herself, to claim alimony from the husband. But today, the Malimath Committee report has extended the definition of the term ‘wife’ to include a woman who has lived with a man like his wife for a considerable amount of time and thus is legally eligible to claim maintenance.”
Children born out of live-in relationships
In June 2022, the Supreme Court in Kattukandi Edathil Krishnan & Another Vs Kattukandi Edathil Valsan & Others ruled that children born to partners in live-in relationships can be considered legitimate. This is conditional in a way that the relationship needs to be long-term and not of ‘walk in, walk out’ nature.
“Long course of living together between a male and female will raise a presumption of marriage between them and the children born in such relationship are considered to be legitimate children,” said the SC judgement.
This extends property rights to such children as well. The SC said “the law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage”. If a man and woman consensually cohabited for a long period and their child cannot be denied the shares in the ancestral properties.
How sanjeevani relationship counselling will help in case of live-in relationship issues?
A counselor can play a valuable role in providing guidance and support for individuals in live-in relationships. Here are some ways in which a counselor can help in such cases:
- Communication and Conflict Resolution: A counselor can help improve communication between partners and teach them effective conflict resolution skills. This can be particularly important in the context of a live-in relationship where the partners may be dealing with daily challenges and disagreements.
- Clarifying Expectations: A counselor can facilitate conversations about each partner’s expectations, goals, and future plans within the relationship. This can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts down the line.
- Emotional Support: Living together can be emotionally intense, and a counselor can provide a safe and neutral space for partners to express their feelings and concerns. This can be especially helpful during times of stress or uncertainty.
- Setting Boundaries: Counselors can assist in setting healthy boundaries within the relationship. Boundaries can help both partners feel respected and comfortable, and they can also prevent the relationship from becoming too suffocating or unhealthy.
- Navigating Challenges: Counselors can guide partners through challenges related to family dynamics, social pressures, cultural differences, and other external factors that might impact the relationship.
- Decision-Making: In a live-in relationship, decisions related to finances, living arrangements, and other important matters need to be made jointly. A counselor can help facilitate these discussions and provide tools for making informed decisions together.
- Pre-Marital Counseling: Some couples use live-in relationships as a precursor to marriage. Pre-marital counseling provided by a counselor can help them explore important topics, such as roles and responsibilities, future goals, and family planning.
- Strengthening Bond: A counselor can help partners focus on the positive aspects of their relationship and identify areas of strength. This can contribute to the overall growth and development of the relationship.
- Assistance with Transition: If a couple decides to transition from a live-in relationship to marriage, a counselor can provide guidance on the changes and adjustments that may come with that transition.
- Ending the Relationship: If the partners decide to end the live-in relationship, a marriage counselor can provide support in managing the emotional aspects of the breakup, and help both individuals move forward in a healthy way. Remember that counselling can be a valuable tool to facilitate open and honest communication and to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and desires. For more enquiry about above the content contact us. sanjeevani relationship counselling. guidemylife.in (9928916750).