Before "I Do"
These days it takes months to more than a year to prepare for a wedding. It literally takes a village to pull off a wedding – coordinators, photographers who are separate from videographers, florists, stylists, couturiers, hair and make-up artists, and many many more! You wouldn’t believe the many details the bride and groom have to mind for one day of pageantry. I’m all for beautiful weddings (I’ve had five so far, but don’t worry it’s with the same man J), but I just hope that couples also devote time to prepare for the life-long commitment of marriage.
A significant, but usually overlooked part, in wedding preparations is understanding the property law that will govern the marriage.
When you enter into a marriage contract here in the Philippines, you and your partner become one, not only in heart, mind, and soul, as our wedding ceremonies always remind us. You also become one pocket, one pool of assets, one Balance Sheet! But no one says this explicitly, and then almost always, people sign into a permanent contract without really knowing what they’re getting themselves into.
In a mini-survey I conducted, the majority of the respondents do not know the laws that govern the ownership of their properties as a married couple. Honestly, my husband and I signed our marriage contract 30 years ago just with a vague idea about it. Well, maybe because we were the typical young couple in love with little or no properties to consider. But with the rate of separations these days, it is imperative that every couple considering marriage understands what it is getting into. In fact, even with #MayForever in our mind and heart, we are still better off understanding what we get ourselves into in marriage.
So what property laws govern your marriage? Do you know? Let’s take a look.
Absolute Community of Property vs. Conjugal Partnership of Gains
If you got married prior to August 3, 1987, your marriage is governed by the Conjugal Partnership of Gains (CPG). Under this law, the spouses retain ownership of properties owned prior to the marriage. Only the fruits or income derived from these previously acquired properties will form part of the common pool or conjugal property. Then all other properties acquired by either spouse during the marriage will likewise form part of the common pool.
Starting August 3, 1987, under the Family Code, marriage in the Philippines is governed by the Absolute Community of Property (ACP). Under this law, the husband and wife become co-owners of all the properties they bring into the marriage and those they acquire during the marriage. This means that even those that you inherited from your ancestors, and those you bought while still single will form part of the ACP.
There are three exceptions to this rule:
1. Properties acquired during the marriage by gratuitous title or, in layman’s language, donation given to either spouse, except if the donor stipulates that the donation also forms part of the ACP. I’ve heard of wealthy families donating to their child after the wedding in order to keep the ownership exclusive to the child.
2. Property for personal and exclusive use. Of course, your clothes, underwear, etc. do not have to form part of the ACP anymore; it’s not hygienic. J Note however that jewelry forms part of ACP. Expensive bags are not yet considered jewelry so those still go to your personal property.
3. Property acquired before the marriage by either spouse who has legitimate descendants by a former marriage and the fruits or income of such property.
Side story on the 2 laws: Back in the 90s, a lawyer friend told me the story of his wealthy female friend who consulted with him prior to marrying her D.I. (Dance Instructor) boyfriend. She recognized the huge gap in their financial conditions but didn’t want to hurt the boyfriend by being too detailed in the Pre-Nuptial Agreement. So what my friend advised was this: Just sign an agreement that simply states, “This marriage shall be governed by the Conjugal Partnership of Gains.”
Clear and simple, no need to enumerate which property goes to what pool, and it eliminated the risk of hurting anyone due to sensitivities on the issue of money.
So given the above, it is best for spouses and would-be spouses to sit down, understand and acknowledge the laws governing their marriage. No amount of “What is hers is hers alone” or “I don’t meddle with the properties that he inherited from his family” will do, because the reality is that, whether you like it or not, if you are the rightful owner of any property, you have both the privileges and obligations attached to said ownership. Moreover, the fundamental reason for our property laws is the acknowledgment that the family is the basic unit of society. And for that family to succeed, it has to know its resources and make full use of them.
For starters, you and your spouse or would-be spouse might be better off knowing each other’s money values, beliefs, and knowledge so you can both use your resources well. Take the FQ Test by clicking the link now.
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AUTHOR BIO Rose Fres Fausto is FQ Mom. FQ stands for Financial Intelligence Quotient. Investment banker turned full-time homemaker, she is now a writer and speaker on money and family.