These two words can change your life in an instant.
It doesn’t take any earthshaking event, a flashy party, an expensive gown and tux, or a long line of sponsors, not even a piece of paper.
A very simple event witnessed by two adults, officiated by a licensed priest or minister, and the words “I do” will transform your life legally and in many other ways.
“I do” — in response to the simple question “do you take this man/woman to be your lawful spouse” is enough to seal your vow under the law. That simple ceremony takes a few seconds. But it can change your live forever, or at least, while the marriage is in force.
Of course this presupposes that all the requirements of a valid marriage are present: legal capacity of the man and woman, consent freely given, authority of the solemnizing officer, a valid marriage license unless this is not required under certain conditions, and the simple marriage ceremony mentioned above.
So how does this change your life?
Change No. 1: You acquire certain rights and obligations
Legally, you agree to observe the rights and obligations of husband and wife: to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support. These rights and duties are found in our law, the Family Code of the Philippines.
While before, you may have been so free in making decisions, now you have to remember that you are not alone. Your decisions will have to involve your partner.
The duty to live together has certain exceptions. If one spouse lives abroad, the other spouse may not be forced to live with him or her. There may also be compelling that justify a spouse from not living together with the other.
Change No. 2 – “What is yours is mine”
Second, your property rights change. Instantly, property that you each own will belong to the marriage.
The default property relations under the Family Code is absolute community. This can best be described by the phrase “what is yours is mine, and what is mine is yours.”
Unless you enter into a pre-nuptial agreement, whatever property you own as of the day of your marriage becomes no longer yours alone but instantly belongs to the absolute community.
So let’s say you have a house and lot worth Php5 million, and your partner has a car worth Php300,000 as of your wedding day. The moment you say “I do” when the officiating minister asks THE question, your house and lot, and your partner’s car cease to be your individual properties. They now become part of your community property. Almost all other properties you acquire during your marriage also become part of your community property.
Some properties won’t form part of the community, such as those given to you or inherited by you during your marriage. This is so, unless the donor or testator (the one who wrote the last will and testament giving you the property) says it should be part of the community. Also, property for your personal and exclusive use shall be yours alone, except for jewelry which will form part of the community.
If you were married before, and you have legitimate children or descendants from such marriage, property you acquired that time will not form part of the community.
Going back to your absolute community, what does this all mean for you both? You and your spouse now jointly manage your properties. You cannot sell, mortgage or donate without the written consent of your spouse. However, you may make moderate donations for charity, or in times of family rejoicing or distress.
So there. For those planning to get married, you should know that the words “I do” have very long-term legal effects.
Then again, the law is just a small part of this relationship. For those who are called to be married, like me, enjoy the adventure.