Libertatem Magazine

Legal Status of Live-in Relationships

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The trend of “live-in relationship” came into existence in the 1990s. A live-in relationship is a form of arrangement where a couple lives in the same house without being married.

The practice of a live-in relationship is way different from marriage because, unlike marriage which has a legal definition, a live-in relationship does not have any but is considered a common-law partner. Live-in relationship is widely popular and increasing in countries like China, US, India, France. It has also become popular due to TV shows, movies, web series, and anime, and so on.


The legal definition of a live-in relationship is a living arrangement in which a couple without any marital status live together in a relationship that is not only for a long term but also serves as an equivalent of marriage. Live-in relationships are also known as cohabitation. This relationship can be either romantic or sexual and it can even be permanent. In the late 20th century, the practice became an emerging trend in Western Europe, south and south-east Asia, North America due to changing social roles in terms of marriage, gender, and religion.

A live-in relationship involves continuous cohabitation between the partners without any responsibilities or obligations towards one another. There is no law tying them together, and as an outcome of it, either of the partners can walk out of the relationship, as and when they want.

Pros and Cons of Live-in Relationship


  • For marriage, there needs to be a great understanding between each other. Life in a relationship provides that opportunity of understanding each other well.
  • In a live-in relationship, there is no legal intervention, unlike in marriage for divorce, property dispute, etc. So they can live peacefully without any legality.
  • The couples in a live-in relationship can have equal security and freedom as they would be aware of each other that anytime they can leave or break up. There are no commitment issues as in marriage.
  • In a live-in relationship, couples can know how their partner lives, his habits, his expectations, his beliefs, etc. So that they can choose wisely before marrying.


  • Society does not accept live-in relationships especially elderly people. They always face rejection in society.
  • As there is no commitment, the small issues or any disagreement would always lead them to break up. When there is no financial binding or social binding, the door is always open for couples to get out.
  • The partners in a live-in relationship can also face challenges like right or authority over property or any incentives as a live-in relationship is not legally binding.
  • As the couples in a live-in relationship can break up anytime, the chances of being depressed or affecting emotional and psychologically well-being increases 

Live-in Relationship in India

Indian society is ever-changing. Its customs and traditions have changed a lot and have a great influence on western culture. One such change is in the outlook of how people see their relationships. Feeling of belongingness and being loved is what most people want but the tie that marriage bind is too binding for them. And an alternative is a relationship that resembles marriage but without obligations and responsibilities. This is when a live-in relationship comes into the picture.

In India, although there are no legal definitions in the Indian laws for life in a relationship, it is still legal as the Constitution of India, and hand in hand the Supreme Court protects the rights and interests of people living in life in a relationship.

Legal Recognition to Live-in Relationship

Badri Prasad vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation was the first case where Supreme Court recognized a live-in relationship as a valid marriage.

In the landmark case of S Khushboo v Kanniammal, the Supreme Court held that life in the relationship comes within the ambit of the right to life under article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court further held that life in relationships is permissible and the act of two major living together cannot be considered illegal or unlawful.

In Lata Singh v State of U.P, the Supreme Court of India observed that life in a relationship between two consenting adults of heterogenic sex does not amount to any offense, even though it may be perceived as immoral.

In D.Velusamy vs. D.Patchaiammal, the court determined certain pre-requisites for a live-in relationship to be considered valid. They were:

(a) The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.

(b) They must be of legal age to marry.

(c) They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.

(d) They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period.

The court ordered that not all relationships will amount to a relationship in the environment of marriage and get the benefit of the Domestic Violence Act. It has been clarified that, if a man keeps a woman as a servant and keeps her financially and uses mainly for sexual purposes, such relationship will not be considered as marriage in the court of law. So to get such benefit the conditions given by the Court need to be satisfied and have to be proved by evidence.


Live-in relationship is new to India as an alternative to marriage. It helps to know each other without having any legal binding relationship and also free from the chaos of family drama and lengthy court proceedings in case the couple decides to break up.

No laws or uniform codes are governing life in a relationship but still, the Supreme Court provides some rights or interests of couples living in life in a relationship. But it still faces backlash as it is against our societal code. So the legislators must make binding laws to protect the interest of those living in life in a relationship. 

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