In our last post, we discussed the definition of domestic violence as per law and various types of violence that are punishable under the law. 

As mentioned in our last post, in this article, we will throw light on the meaning of ‘domestic relationship’ and its intricacies. 

Understanding the meaning of ‘domestic relationship’ is important because as per the law any person who is in a domestic relationship with a woman and abuses her, is punishable for inflicting domestic violence. Therefore, it is important to understand who are these people who are said to be in a domestic relationship with a woman. 

In this article we will analyse the scope of the term ‘domestic relationship’ and further examine whether a woman who is in a live-in-relationship with a man can be considered to be in a domestic relationship with the said person. 

Domestic relationship 

As per the law, domestic relationship has been defined as follows- 

domestic relationship” means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family”

As per the aforesaid definition, the following persons are said to be in a domestic relationship with a woman –

Any person living together in a shared household with her, when the said person and the woman are related by –

  • Consanguinity i.e. being descended from the same ancestor;
  • Marriage;
  • A relationship in the nature of marriage 
  • Adoption 
  • Joint family members 

Therefore, apart from the husband, with whom a woman is related by marriage; various other persons are also said to be in a domestic relationship with a woman. 

It is thus clear that if the aforesaid persons inflict any kind of violence on a woman, such act will be deemed to be domestic violence under the act and such person/s will be prosecuted for the said offence. 

Relationship in the nature of marriage 

While, it is easy to understand the aforesaid domestic relations, ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ seems a little vague and it is therefore important to understand the meaning of this phrase. 

In D. Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, [2011 Cri L J 320.], the Supreme Court laid down the following requirements to be fulfilled for determining the term ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’-

  1. The couple must hold themselves out to society as being akin to spouses.
  2. They must be of legal age to marry.
  3. They must be otherwise qualified to enter into a legal marriage, including being unmarried.
  4. They must have voluntarily cohabited and held themselves out to the world as being akin to spouses for a significant period of time.
  5. They must have resided together in a share household.

A woman who is in a relationship in the nature of the aforesaid relationship and is facing violence by the partner can sue him under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (‘the act’) as such a relationship is recognised as a ‘domestic relationship’ under the act. 

Domestic violence in live-in-relationships

Having discussed the concept of ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ and that such relationships are covered under the domestic violence act,  you must now be wondering about the status of a woman who is facing violence in a live-in-relationship. 

In general terms or rather in layman’s understanding, a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ seems like a live-in-relationship considering the fact that such a relationship appears to be as close as marriage. 

However, given the present times, where live-in-relationships are so common and the fact that young generations enter into a live-in-relation to see their compatibility with their partners and most often part ways, it is important to understand how such relationships can be considered to be a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ which is so sacred. 

In Indra Sarma V. V.K.V. Sarma,(2013) 15 SCC 755, guidelines were laid down to determine under what circumstances can a live-in-relationship be said to be a relationship in the nature of marriage. The following are those guidelines – 

  1. Duration of period of relationship — there must be a reasonable period of time to maintain and continue a relationship which may vary from case to case, depending upon the fact situation.
  2. Shared household — the couple must reside in a shared household.
  3. Pooling of resources and financial arrangements — Supporting each other, or any one of them, financially, sharing bank accounts, acquiring immovable properties in joint names or in the name of the woman, long-term investments in business, shares in separate and joint names, so as to have a long-standing relationship, may be a guiding factor.
  4. Domestic arrangements — Entrusting the responsibility, especially on the woman to run the home, do the household activities like cleaning, cooking, maintaining or upkeeping the house, etc. is an indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage.
  5. Sexual relationship — Marriage-like relationship refers to sexual relationship, not just for pleasure, but for emotional and intimate relationship, for procreation of children, so as to give emotional support, companionship and also material affection, caring, etc.
  6. Children — Having children is a strong indication of a relationship in the nature of marriage. The parties, therefore, intend to have a long-standing relationship. Sharing the responsibility for bringing up and supporting them is also a strong indication.
  7. Socialisation in public — Holding out to the public and socialising with friends, relations and others, as if they are husband and wife is a strong circumstance to hold the relationship is in the nature of marriage.
  8. Intention and conduct of the parties — Common intention of the parties as to what their relationship is to be and to involve, and as to their respective roles and responsibilities, primarily determines the nature of that relationship.

The aforesaid guidelines are the guiding factors while determining whether a particular live-in-relationship can be categorised as a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’. It is pertinent to note that the aforesaid guidelines are not exhaustive in nature. 

If a woman enters in a live-in-relationship and wants protection  under the law for any further mishaps such as abuse, violence etc., she must make sure that such relationship fits in the parameters laid down in Indra Sarma V. V.K.V. Sarma.

It is pertinent to note that such live-in-relationships which do not fit in the parameters of a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ are not covered within the ambit of the act. 

Therefore, any woman who is in a live-in-relationship (that does not fall within the parameters laid down as discussed above) cannot be protected from domestic violence under the law. 

Once a relationship fits in the criteria laid down by the judiciary, such relationship will then receive protection under the domestic violence act. 

While infliction of domestic violence by the husband is punishable under the law, the law also protects a woman who is in a live-in-relationship with a partner(and fits in the criteria discussed above). Such a live-in-relationship is considered as a domestic relationship and the partner can thus be prosecuted if he indulges in any kind violence against the woman. 

This indeed is a law that provides solutions to the new age problems. Earlier there was no concept of a live-in relationships, but now as many people like to have a live-in-relationship, the law tends to recognise them and provide for any issues/problems that might crop up when a live-in-relationship turns sour.

Note: This Article provides an outline of the law. If you have specific queries or questions, please feel free to DM on instagram or email us at