With the advancement of time, the dynamics of Indian society have drastically changed. And so have the stereotypes and the preconceived norms that were considered as yardsticks for people to be in the society. In the current scenario, pre-marital sex and live-in relationships are becoming the new normal where people are socially marginalized overdoing this as they were before.

Be that as it may, the legal status of live-in relationships in India is quite unclear, which makes one question, is live-in relationship legal in India? But before we begin discussing the legal status of live-in relationships in India, let us first fully acquaint ourselves with the concept of live-in relationships.

What exactly is a live-in relationship?

Similar to a marriage, a live-in relationship is a relationship between two individuals who live together under the same roof. It is often known by the technical name, cohabitation. The only difference between a live-in relationship and a marriage is the legitimacy that the latter receives.

More often than not, the concept of a live-in relationship is condemned by Indian society on accounts of its Western identity. However, on a deeper thought, live-in relationships are rational to check the compatibility between the couples, who are thinking of getting married.

Think like this. If you and your partner are thinking of taking your relationship to a further level but you are not sure about it, you can try living together and see how things work out for you guys. If you skip this step and directly enter into a marriage, you might have to cause a lot of trouble to yourself, your partner, your families, not to mention the unexpected visits to court, if things do not work out.

In the society that we live in, marriage is the conventional way out for a couple who wants to take their relationship further. Nothing is wrong with that, but just because society condemns the idea of a live-in relationship, one should not refrain from trying it.

In addition to this, when a couple is in a live-in relationship, they are not bound to follow the duties and responsibilities that a married couple has to follow. More often than not, many people have taken undue advantage of this fact and there have several serious incidents reported concerning this.

Live-in relationships, more often than not, led to the rise of unwanted pregnancies which give rise to the population of children who do not have a legitimate family background. Consequently, the question of the legal status of live-in relationships is asked more than ever in today’s society.

Live-in relationship and the judiciary

As mentioned earlier, there is no particular live-in relationship law in India. This means that there are no specific rights, duties, responsibilities for them to follow and resultantly, there is no status of children in society who are born out of a live-in relationship.

In addition to this, the judiciary also does not provide any legal definition of a live-in relationship. Be that as it may, the court has clarified the concept of live-in relationships through vague judgments. This entails a series of legislations that people who are in a live relationship or thinking about moving into one, should keep in mind.

Guidelines given by Supreme Court

1. Duration of the live-in relationship

The duration of the live-in relationship has been mentioned in Section 2(F) of the Domestic Violence (DV) act. It mentions that the relationship can be put to an end, any point in time. This implies a reasonable period to sustain and continue a particular relationship.

2. Arrangements of financial and other resources

In a live-in relationship, one partner can support the other financially through sharing their bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names, acquiring shares in separate or joint names, or even conduct long-term investments in the business.

3. Children

Having children or thinking about having them is considered a strong indication of turning this relationship into a marital one by the court of India. This implies that the couple is looking forward to having a long–term relationship in the future.

4. Sexual relationship

The guidelines for a sexual relationship for a couple who is loving together under the same roof are similar to that of a marital couple. A couple who is in a live-in relationship would be having sexual intercourse not just for pleasure but also for emotional and intimate relationship and emotional support.

5. Socialization in public

Socializing in public, that is meeting friends, families and acquaintances is also one of the strong indicators that the couple wants to take the relationship further and to hold the relationship similar to a marital one.

With that said, let us discuss some of the steps taken by the government to protect the vulnerable groups, that are women and children who are often exploited in live-in relationships.

Protection against exploitation of women and children in live-in relationships!

1 Domestic violence

Domestic violence is characterized as the violence against any of the partners in a marital relationship in the form of physical, mental, verbal or economic abuse. The Domestic Violence Act protects the person in the marital relationship from any or all of the above-mentioned forms of abuse.  

However, according to section 2(F) as mentioned earlier, this act is also applicable to a ‘relationship in nature of marriage’.

2. Maintenance of lady partner

Under all the personal laws in India, wives receive a right to maintenance. As no particular right or legal identity is bestowed to the female partner in a live-in relationship, there is no remedy granted to them. However, the Indian Courts have broadened the scope of maintenance under the Criminal Procedure Code.

Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides a legal right of maintenance to the female partners in or out of a marriage.

3. Children born out of live-in relationships

The choice of having kids or not is solely based upon the couple who is living together. The court cannot interfere in that decision. However, according to the guidelines governing the adoption of children given by the Central Adoption Resource Authority, a live-in couple cannot adopt the child.

4. Inheritance rights of children

According to Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the legal status of legitimacy is provided to illegitimate children for inheritance. This implies that children born out of a live-in relationship have legal inheritance rights which they can fully exploit.

5. Maintenance rights of children

The maintenance rights of children born out of a live-in relationship depend upon the personal marriage laws. According to Section 125 of the Criminal procedure Code, the legal right of maintenance of children is provided to the wives or the female partners in a relationship similar to marriage.