Is Live-in Relationship Legal in India?



In recent times, societal norms have evolved, and various forms of relationships have emerged beyond the traditional concept of marriage. One such arrangement is a live-in relationship, where two individuals choose to live together without getting married. However, in a culturally diverse country like India, the legality of live-in relationships has been a subject of curiosity and debate. In this article, we will explore the legal status of live-in relationships in India, explaining it in simple terms for the layman.


What is a Live-in Relationship?

A live-in relationship is an arrangement where two individuals decide to live together in a relationship akin to marriage, without formalizing it through legal or religious ceremonies. In such a relationship, couples often share a home, responsibilities, and an emotional bond, similar to a married couple. However, unlike marriage, live-in relationships lack legal recognition and protection in many countries.


Legal Status of Live-in Relationships in India

The legal status of live-in relationships in India is not straightforward, as there is no specific legislation governing this type of arrangement. As a culturally diverse nation, India encompasses varying perspectives on relationships, leading to a lack of uniformity in its legal stance.


Supreme Court’s Ruling

In 2010, the Supreme Court of India provided some clarity on live-in relationships through a landmark judgment. The court ruled that live-in relationships are not illegal or immoral, and adults have the right to live together without getting married. It recognized live-in relationships as part of a person’s right to personal liberty and privacy, protected by the Indian Constitution.


However, the court also emphasized that for a relationship to be considered a live-in relationship, it must fulfill certain criteria, such as:

  1. Mutual Consent: Both partners must willingly and voluntarily choose to live together.
  2. Long-term Relationship: The relationship should be stable and enduring, akin to a marriage.
  3. Public Perception: The couple must be perceived as living together in the eyes of society.
  4. Shared Responsibilities: The partners should share responsibilities and support each other financially or emotionally.


  1. Childbirth: If the couple has children together, it further strengthens the case for a live-in relationship.


Protection under the Domestic Violence Act

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, of 2005, is a significant legal protection for women in live-in relationships. According to this act, women in live-in relationships have the right to claim protection and relief from domestic violence. The law recognizes that women in live-in relationships are as vulnerable to abuse and violence as married women, and they can seek legal recourse under this act.


Inheritance and Property Rights

While live-in relationships may not grant partners automatic inheritance and property rights as in a marriage, recent legal developments have recognized the right of women in live-in relationships to claim maintenance and financial support from their partners.

The courts have been more receptive to protecting the rights of women in such relationships, ensuring they receive necessary financial support in case of separation.


Child Custody and Guardianship

In cases where a live-in couple has children together, child custody and guardianship issues can arise in the event of a separation. The courts decide these matters based on the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the involvement and responsibility shown by each parent in the child’s upbringing.



In conclusion, live-in relationships are not illegal in India, and the Supreme Court has upheld the right of individuals to live together without getting married. However, the legal status of live-in relationships is not equivalent to marriage, and partners do not have the same automatic rights and protections as married couples.

The courts have gradually recognized the rights of individuals in live-in relationships, particularly women, to claim maintenance, financial support, and protection from domestic violence. While legal protection for live-in relationships has improved, it is essential for couples to be aware of their legal rights and seek legal advice if needed, especially in matters involving property, inheritance, and child custody.

As societal attitudes continue to evolve, live-in relationships may gain further recognition and protection in the future. For now, it is crucial for couples to understand the legal nuances and implications of their choices and make informed decisions about their relationships.

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