Our society has undergone a massive overhaul in relationship dynamics over the past two decades or so. Whereas, in the past, couple relationships typically referred to a heterosexual alliance culminating in marriage, today, that spectrum has expanded astronomically. One trend that has fast caught on in new-age relationships across the globe is that of live-in relationships, which brings us to the perennial marriage vs live-in relationship debate.
Living in today is as commonplace as getting married, if not more. Almost every other couple in a committed long-term relationship cohabitates before taking the plunge into marriage. To some couples, the idea of marriage may even become redundant since they’re already sharing their lives without getting involved in the formalities and obligations that come with the institution of involved marriage.
However, the key difference between marriage and live-in relationship lies in the legal rights that you can claim as someone’s spouse versus as partners living together.
Differences between marriage and live-in relationship
If you and your partner find yourself at that crossroads in your relationship where you’re contemplating whether you need to get married or is living together enough, knowing the weighing the pros and cons of marriage vs live-in relationship can help. Here are some facts to consider when making the ‘marriage or live-in relationship’ choice.
A marriage, especially in India, is an alliance between families whereas live-in relationship is essentially between the two partners. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your outlook in life and what you want from your relationship. If you are someone who cringes at the idea of playing the bahu or damaad, albeit only once in a while, a live-in relationship may be the way to go. But if you have a traditional outlook toward relationships, marriage may make you feel more secure.
Related Reading: Live-In Relationships…An Extension Of Sambandham Marriages In Kerala
If having children is in your life’s vision for yourself, then that becomes an important aspect to factor in when making the marriage vs live-in relationship choice. There are no clear laws governing the rights of children born to couples in a live-in relationship in India so far.
However, going by precedence established in Supreme Court and High Court judgments, such children do have rights of legitimacy, maintenance, property and custody, provided the cohabitating partners meet certain criteria. Then again, such precedents can be challenged in court and a fresh verdict obtained.
In short, bringing a child into a live-in relationship can prove to be a complicated affair, if things go south between you and your partner. On the other hand, in a marriage, a child’s rights are fully secured. But should a marriage end, custody battles often become a sore point in divorce proceedings.
The Delhi High Court in its judgment in Alok Kumar v. State & Anr in 2010 described a live-in relationship as a “walk-in and walk-out relationship”. “It is a contract of living together which is renewed every day by the parties and can be terminated by either of the parties without the consent of the other party and one party can walk out at will at any time,” the court had said in its ruling.
Psychologists also believe that live-in relationships are getting popular due to a fear of commitment among one or both the partners. While this may be true to some extent, such generalisations cannot be a 100 per cent accurate.
When you’re contemplating the all-important marriage or live-in relationship decision, the societal and legal perceptions are crucial aspects to mull over.
Research indicates that marriage can promote better mental and physical among partners as opposed to staying single or being in live-in relationships. A lower incidence of chronic diseases and higher recovery rate among married couples is associated with greater social acceptance and emotional stability one experiences in the traditionally approved institution of marriage.
Marriage vs Live-in Relationship – Facts to Consider
Relationships come in all forms and shapes today, and there is no handbook to ascertain if one is better than the other. More often than not, that decision depends on your individual choices and circumstances. That said, the marriage vs live-in relationship choice is one that you’ll need to live with for a long time to come, and as such, that decision should not be made lightly. Here are some facts to base your choice on:
Facts about live-in relationships:
1. There is no formal requirement in a live-in relationship
Any two consenting adults can decide to live together at any point in their relationship. There are no pre-requisites to formalise such an arrangement. All you need is a place to move into together, and you’re good to go.
2. Cohabitation can be ended informally
Since there is no legal agreement in the relationship, it can be ended as easily as it can begin. The two partners can mutually decide to end the relationship, move out and move on. Or one of the partners can check out of the relationship, causing it to end. Even though there is no long-drawn process to end a live-in relationship, the emotional toll it takes on you can be comparable to going through a divorce.
3. Division of assets is up to the partners
There are no legal guidelines to govern the terms of live-in relationships. Our laws haven’t been amended to keep up the changing times, and courts are for now addressing disputes between cohabitating couples on a case-on-case basis.
Should you and your partner decide to end the relationship, the division of assets will have to be done through the mutual consent of both parties. In case of a dispute or deadlock, you can seek legal recourse. This is considered one of the key disadvantages of live-in relationships.
4. There is a provision to leave an inheritance
There is a rule defining how the joint property or assets will be divided or transferred in case of live-in relationship. If one of the partners dies, the joint property will be automatically inherited by the surviving partner.
In case the property is legally owned by only one partner, they will need to make a will to ensure that the other is provided for. If there is no will, then the asset will be inherited by the next of kin or closest family member, as per the current laws.
The surviving spouse would have no rights to the estate unless his or her name was mentioned in the partner’s will
5. Joint bank account in a live-in relationship
Setting up joint accounts, insurance, visas, adding your partner as a nominee in financial documents, and even visitation right to a hospital can be a challenge. In case both partners maintain separate accounts, neither of them will be able to access the money in the other one’s account on their own. If one partner dies, the balance in their account cannot be used by the other partner until the estate is settled.
You can, however, open a joint bank account if you agree that your partner gets the feasibility to access or manage your bank accounts. With a joint bank account, the surviving partner’s financial independence is not curtailed in case of an untimely or sudden demise of one.
6. Assisting each other after separation
Couples in a live-in relationship are not obligated to support one another after separation unless there is a legally binding commitment statement in place. This can lead to financial issues for one or both partners. This is among the big challenges of live-in relationships in India.
7. In case of illness, the family has the right to decide
It doesn’t matter how long two people have been living together, the right to make decisions regarding end-of-life support and medical care of such a partner rests with their immediate family unless explicitly specified otherwise in a will.
8. Parenting in live-in relationships has a lot of grey areas
With no clear laws governing the rights and responsibilities of parents who are not legally married, raising a child together in a live-in relationship can involve a lot of grey areas, especially if differences begin to take hold.
Facts about Marriage
1. Marriage requirements
Marriage is a more formal arrangement, governed by certain state laws. For instance, there is a minimum age for marriage is 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. Similarly, for a marriage to be legally recognised it must be solemnised as per state-approved religious rituals or in a court. A couple needs to apply for registration of marriage afterwards and obtain a certificate from a competent authority. You can read more about it here.
2. Marriage should be ended formally
Dissolution of a marriage involves annulment or divorce, both of which can be long drawn out, complicated and expensive legal procedures.
3. There is a division of assets in divorce
Divorce proceeding entails a division of assets jointly owned by the spouses.
Related Reading: Divorce By Mutual Consent – Bridges Vs Battlegrounds
4. Financially stable spouse will have to support the other
The financially stable spouse has the responsibility to provide maintenance to the estranged partner even after separation. This can be done by way of alimony or monthly maintenance or both, as per the court’s decision.
5. In case of illness
In case one of the partners is taken seriously ill, the other partner has the legal authority to make crucial decisions involving healthcare, finances and even end-of-life care.
6. Inherit property
A widow or widower automatically inherits their deceased spouse’s assets, unless specified otherwise in a legally executed will.
Related Reading: 8 People Share What Ruined Their Marriage
7. Legitimacy of offsprings
A child born to a married couple is the legal heir of all their assets and the responsibility of financially supporting the child rests on the parents.
8. After the divorce
Even in case of separation or divorce, the non-custodial parent has a legal responsibility to financially support and co-parent the children born out of the marriage
The difference between marriage and live-in relationship lies in the social and legal acceptance enjoyed by the former. As society evolves, these dynamics may change, but as things stand today, marriage is the more secure form of commitment for a long-term relationship.
That said, marriage can come with its pitfalls and shortcomings, especially if you end up with the wrong person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to relationship choices. It is, however, pertinent to weigh in these pros and cons when making your decision.