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Common Law Marriage Myths

It may surprise you to know that there is no such thing in California as common law marriage, or to be more accurate, a common law marriage can never be created in California. While this can be possible according to the laws of a few states, this is NOT possible in California as California abolished common law marriages over a hundred years ago. California will, however, recognize common law marriages that were created in states which do recognize them.

It must be a legally formed marriage in that particular state for California to recognize as a legal marriage.

States That Recognize Common Law Marriage

I get a TON of calls about seeking Palimony and most people have an unfounded belief about what palimony is. Palimony actions started in the early s after actor Lee Marvin think The Dirty Dozen and Cat Ballou broke up with his girlfriend Michelle Triola who he had lived with for several years.

California Recognizes Common Law Marriage in Certain Situations

After the break up, Triola took Marvin to court claiming that he had orally promised to financially support her for the rest of her life in exchange for her giving up her own acting career to take care of him. Marvin denied he ever made that promise, and in the end, Triola lost her case, but in the process, the California Supreme Court had established the rights of unmarried cohabitants.


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Note that Triola lost, she did not get any support for which she sought. Here, no one is entitled to support or property rights under California family law, but there can be rights created under the oral or written contract.

If you need legal advice about your situation, please have a private consultation with an attorney. Also, this article only addresses general information about California law and not any other State or jurisdiction. Marriage is a creature of statute in California. That means a valid marriage entered into the State of California requires the husband and wife must go through the formal process of the marriage licensing and solemnization laws. It's the difference between the Old West and the New West.

Talk to a Divorce attorney.

As California became a State in the Union and our society became more sophisticated and modern, laws were passed that regulated everyday life and traditions. As localities towns and cities lost power, the State gained it through those laws and regulations. One of those regulations was the end of common law marriage in California in the year But did that end mean California will never recognize any common law marriage regardless of the circumstances?

How Many Years Is Considered Common Law Marriage In California?

The knee jerk statement that others advocate, "California does not recognize common law marriages under any circumstance" may not be entirely correct. A formal marriage generally cannot be created in the State of California by a man and a woman's consent or cohabitation, alone.

Common Law Marriage FAQs - FindLaw

The key words regarding this law against common law marriage and its invalidity are "in the State of California". Therefore, if a man and woman live in California and think they have created a common law marriage here by consent or cohabitation here, California courts may reject it. But there may be an important exception. California law also states that if a marriage is valid pursuant to the laws of the place, such as a State or foreign country, where the marriage occurred, then California may recognize the marriage absent certain limited circumstances. Those limited circumstances are beyond the scope of this article.

So if, hypothetically, if another State in the union or even Country recognizes a common law marriage between a man and a woman which was entered there, and that hypothetical man and woman have a proper marriage there through their "common law" status whatever that may mean in that other jurisdiction and that man and woman then move to California, guess what?

California may recognize it too. We wrote "may" because these issues may be disputed. For example, the woman may claim there is a valid common law marriage and the man may claim there is not a valid common law marriage. This is just one example. There may be disputes over a foreign country's laws and whether or not California should recognize them on this issue.

The Court ultimately has to figure it out and decide if there was a common law marriage under the laws of the other jurisdiction that California will recognize. No article can answer that question. That is why hiring a lawyer is so important. It actually has. While it is uncommon pun is partially intended , a common law marriage in Alabama was recognized in the State of California back in That is of course not the only instance it has happened but the case called " Marriage of Smyklo " was a published appellate court ruling and an important decision that verified the difference between an invalid, common law marriage in California and a valid common law marriage outside California that was recognized in this State.

Let's assume in a hypothetical situation there was never any common law marriage but the man and woman in California have joint bank accounts here, commingle their earnings, jointly pay debts or even hold property together in California. As a starting point, consider asking the following questions:. If you claim that your marriage is common law but your partner says otherwise, the state could choose to ignore it. There are other situations that could cause the state to ignore it as well.

For example, you may have a common law marriage recognized by a foreign country. If so, there may be arguments over whether California should honor the laws of that country. However, that can make things complicated when a relationship ends. Instead of treating it like the end of a marriage, you need to treat it differently. If you share finances with your partner, have property together, or pay debt together, you might have quite a few questions. First, you need to consider who has rights to the money in a joint checking account. Second, you need to consider who has ownership of the home.

Does Common Law Marriage Still Exist in California? Yes and No.

Then, you need to think about the specifics of your situation. You may have questions about assets. Your situation is unique. With the advice of a lawyer, you can get answers to your questions and learn what type of outcome you can expect. Common law marriages are murky waters in most states.

But that can leave you wondering how to handle the end of your relationship.