Feb 23, 2022

Understanding the Law on Live-In Relationships in India

The Allahabad High Court has granted police protection to a couple who were in a live-in relationship. The Court said that a live-in relationship between two adults who are consenting and above the age of 18 is not an offence in India.


What are Live-in relationships?

Live-in relationships are relationships where two adults above the age of 18, cohabit together without marrying each other. Unlike a marriage, a live-in relationship has no legal implications. For example, live-in relationships do not have to be registered and to end the live-in relationship, a divorce is not required. 

When does the law uphold a  live-in relationship?

There are certain circumstances in which courts have been asked to intervene in live-in relationships. The courts, while pronouncing judgments on live-in relationships, compare them to marriages to determine whether the relationship has the characteristics of a regular marriage.  If such relationships are considered in the nature of marriage, the courts have been known to uphold certain rights, such as, the right of the female partner to file a domestic violence case against her male partner. 

What makes a live-in relationship like a marriage under the law?

Courts, through various cases, have laid down certain conditions for live-in relationships to be considered as relationships in the “nature of marriage”. These are:

  • Duration of the Relationship – The couple should have lived together for a significant period of time, like months or years. So, a few weeks, a weekend or a one night stand, do not count as a live-in relationship.
  • Socialisation in Public – The couple must socialize publicly with friends, relatives and other people. 
  • Age – The couple must at the time of entering into the live-in relationship, be above the legally valid age of marriage i.e. 18 years.
  • Sexual Relationship – A sexual relationship must be there between the couple that includes emotional and intimate support. 
  • Financial Arrangement – The couple must have a financial arrangement similar to that of a husband and wife. For example, pooling in resources together or financially supporting each other, through shared bank accounts, assets in joint names, long term business investments, etc.
  • Domestic Arrangement – The couple must have a domestic arrangement. For instance, running the household and doing domestic work – cleaning, cooking, upkeep of the house, etc. 
  • Intention and conduct of the parties – Common intention of the couple as to what their relationship is and their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.
  • Children – Having children is a strong indication that the nature of the relationship is similar to that of a marriage, and that the participants have a long-term view of the relationship. 

Are Live-in relationships illegal in India?

Live- in relationships are not illegal in India. The couple can be of any gender but must be above the age of 18 and give free consent. The Allahabad Court also said that no one, including their parents, can interfere in the lives of a couple who are living in and that live-in couples have the right to life, under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 where they can live peacefully and without disturbance.