California Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage is not allowed in the Golden State. It has been traditionally believed that if a couple cohabitates for several years and acts like a married couple, the state will also consider them lawfully married. While some states do recognize common-law marriages, California does not recognize them. However, the state will recognize a common law marriage that was created in states that recognize them.

There’s No Common Law Marriage in California

The law on lawful marriage in the state provides that couples cannot declare their marriage lawful via verbal consent or living together. When two people cohabitate for a period of time in California and believe that they are officially in a common-law marriage, the courts will not take this as proof of a lawful marriage.

There is, however, a major exception. If a common law marriage was validated according to the laws of another state or country where the common law marriage was created, California will recognize the couple’s marital status. This means that if a couple that lived in a different state or another country where common law marriages are legal moved to California, the state will consider their marriage legal and valid.

Rights of Unmarried Couples in California

If your marital status is not lawful in California or you failed to meet the requirements of another state for a common law marriage, depending on your circumstances, you may still have rights that usually apply to legally married couples. For instance, if you have strong evidence of your marriage’s validity, you may have the same rights when dividing property and receiving financial support when you get separated. You may enjoy these limited rights if your marriage is considered unproven or you ran into technical anomalies during the marriage ceremony.

However, these rights may only apply if you have a written or verbal agreement regarding property division and financial support with your partner. This situation is known as palimony and typically applies to unmarried couples that have cohabitated for a long time. But to be entitled to palimony, you will need to prove that you have an implied understanding or written agreement with your partner about sharing assets and earnings or that one of you would provide the other financial support.

In addition, unmarried parents still have a legal obligation to support their children. Keep in mind that the right to child support is the child’s right, not the parents. Likewise, unmarried parents have the same child custody rights and responsibilities as married parents, provided that their parentage is established.

Reach Out to a Skilled California Family Law Attorney Today

Because California doesn’t recognize common law marriages, except if they were validated in other states or countries, unmarried couples that have been living together for a long time should strongly consider a cohabitation or non-marital agreement and other legal options to protect their best interests if they end up separating.

If you have any questions or need any advice on any family law matter, please contact the California family law attorney at Bamieh & De Smeth. Call 805-643-5555 or contact us online to arrange your free case review with our California family law attorney.