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Common Law Marriage in California

Do you have questions about common law marriage in California? Contact the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield today to learn more about how the state views common law marriages or to discuss your specific situation. Reach out to set up a consultation with one of our seasoned family law attorneys. You can contact us by phone at (310) 546-5858.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

A common law marriage is a marriage that exists between two people who have cohabited and presented as married for a sufficiently long period that the state recognizes their union as a marriage, even if they were never formally married in a ceremony.

Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Despite being one of the more progressive states in the nation, California does not recognize common law marriages. However, unmarried couples who have cohabitated for a long time might still have some rights. If you and your long-term partner are curious to learn more, the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield are here to help you understand your rights as an unmarried, cohabiting couple in the state.

What If I Previously Lived in a State that Recognizes Common Law Marriages?

If you and your partner used to live in a state that recognized your union as a common law marriage, then the state of California will consider you married.

For the state of California to consider you and your long-term partner married, you must have met the criteria for a common law marriage in the state where you formerly resided. Because different states have different laws on the books regarding common law marriages, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can evaluate your situation and determine whether you met your previous state’s requirements for this type of marriage. In most states that recognize common law marriage, you must present as married by filing a joint tax return and taking the same last name.

The states where common law marriages are recognized include:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Texas
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • South Carolina
  • Montana

If you hail from any of these states and your union was recognized as a common law marriage in that state, you will be recognized as married in California.

What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have in California?

If you are unmarried in California and your union was not recognized as a common law marriage in another state, you might still have some very limited rights in California. For example, suppose you and your partner reasonably believed that your marriage was valid. In that case, you might be entitled to certain rights if you split with your partner, including the division of assets and receiving financial support. However, it might be challenging to prove that you believed your marriage was valid unless, for instance, a clerical error invalidated your marriage without your knowledge.

If you and your partner separate, you could also have some rights if you signed a cohabitation agreement that promised property sharing or palimony, which is basically financial support for unmarried couples. To obtain palimony as outlined in the agreement, you must file a civil claim with a California court. The court can only intervene if you file this claim.

If you bring your palimony case before a California court, the court will consider a range of factors when evaluating whether your claim for palimony or asset division is reasonable under the law. The factors the court will consider include:

  • The length of time you and your partner lived together
  • Whether one partner supported the other financially during the relationship
  • Whether you both invested financially in a property
  • Whether you both worked together to build something valuable
  • Whether you and your partner had an express or implied agreement regarding palimony and division of assets

If you and your cohabiting partner signed an agreement and you need help enforcing it after a separation, contact the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield today to discuss your situation and review your legal options.

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While California does not officially recognize common law marriages, other options are available to residents who wish to form a union outside of a traditional marriage. For instance, California permits domestic partnerships, which afford couples all the same rights as married couples.

If you have further questions about common law marriage in California or need legal representation in a palimony case, reach out to the Law Offices of Baden V. Mansfield today for a consultation. You can contact us by phone at (310) 546-5858.

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