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Common law marriage in California

On Behalf of | Jan 1, 2015 | Common Law Marriage & Palimony

Common law marriage in California

This blog devotes itself to the subject of California divorce for high net worth couples. But in taking a step back, it might be necessary first to address the question of whether a couple, particularly one seeking a legal divorce, is actually legally married to begin with. Cohabitation, whatever the level of shared or personal assets, is an everyday occurrence in our culture, but does that mean a couple is married in the literal, legal sense? In the state of California, a formal legal marriage is what it says: sanctioned by law, often celebrated religiously as well. But what about common law marriage? That is a well-known term, but how does California law regard, or recognize, a couple claiming to be common law spouses?

The answer, or rather, answers, do not fall simply into “yes” or “no” categories. A couple cannot declare themselves to be married simply by saying so, or by cohabiting for any particular amount of time, or joining their finances or even owning property together. California courts most likely would reject that couple’s claim, or either of the persons involved in making such a claim.

However, if a couple has a valid marriage that occurred in another state or another country, the state of California will most likely recognize that marriage. That may also include common law marriages that took place in a jurisdiction that recognizes those unions as legal. Why so many “may” and “most likelys” in this discussion? Because in some cases, one member of a couple may claim in court that they are married, and the other may not – for example, in pursuit of a share of the other’s assets or property. And the California courts may not agree with that person’s assessment that the union is indeed a legal marriage. An experienced family attorney can provide guidance at every step of the process. There are no blanket statutes here that apply to every case. There is, however, an entire area of California law relating to an unmarried couple’s division (and awarding) of assets after a split. This is known as palimony law, and will be addressed in another post.

The content of this blog is intended not as legal advice, but only for information and/or discussion purposes. Should you have questions or concerns about how California family law may apply to you, you may wish to consult a knowledgeable family law attorney. 

As Orange County’s premier family law specialists, the attorneys at Dinnebier & Demmerle can provide answers to your questions and concerns, clarify and establish your legal rights, and represent you in court. If you would like more information about common law marriage, palimony or any other aspect of California family law, please call to set up a consultation. We’re ready to move forward when you are. Just contact us in Tustin at 714-598-3714.