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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in alimony
Posted by on in Spousal Support

Many people believe that if a couple lives together for a period of years and holds themselves out to the world as a married couple, then the couple will be considered to be “legally married.” While this may be true in certain states, California abolished these common law marriages over a hundred years ago. A common law marriage can never be created in California; however it will recognize common law marriages that were created in states which do recognize them.

Even though California does not allow for common law marriages, couples who live together may still have rights to financial support and property division as if they had been legally married, but only under strict circumstances. In these cases, if one or both persons in the relationship had a reasonable and good faith belief that they had entered into a valid marriage, but it turned out the marriage was void, then that person can be considered a “putative spouse.” To be given the status of a putative spouse, it is not enough to say that you simply believed you had a common law marriage. Instead, the couple must have actually gone through the motions to get married, yet had something go wrong when trying to comply with the legal requirements for marriage (often this happens when one person was in a prior marriage and mistakenly thought that he or she was legally divorced). Not only that, but this good faith belief that you are married must continue throughout the marriage, if you find out that the marriage is invalid, then you lose putative status. Recently, it was also established that these same principles can be applied to couples who were in an unregistered domestic partnership. A person with putative spouse status will be entitled to share in property acquired during the invalid marriage or domestic partnership under our community property laws, and to any spousal support that is required once the relationship is terminated. A putative spouse may also have marital-type rights in other situations as well, such as workers compensation or retirement benefits (Wikipedia). The spouse who knew or should have known that the marriage was not valid will typically not be able to benefit from these provisions.

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