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Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

The existence or non-existence of common law marriage in California is sometimes asked by parties contemplating their legal rights when breaking up with their partner.  Marriage in California is a creature of statute. This means that for a husband and wife to go through legal and real marriage, they must go through all the formal processes that involve licensing of marriage and solemnization laws among other things.

California abolished common law marriage back in 1895.  However, that is not entirely the end of the story.

In Limited Situations Common Law Marriages Exist

There can be no marriage between a man and woman on the basis of consent or cohabitation alone.  However, there is also an exception mentioned in this regard.  However, a marriage that is pursuant to the laws of a State or foreign country where the marriage has occurred, the California courts could recognize such a marriage as a valid marriage.

It should be noted, however, that proving these aspects is a hard nut to crack, since more often than not in most cases the spouses themselves aren’t in agreement of the type of the marriage.

Has there been a California case recognizing a common law marriage?

This actually has happened in the California legal system. This was done in the case “Marriage of Smyklo” by the appellate court. This decision can be considered a landmark decision in this regard since the courts highlighted the differences between an invalid common law marriage and a valid common-law marriage. The marriage in this case had happened in Alabama and the courts recognize this. It is important to realize that such cases are likely to be very rare.

What happens if a couple acts completely like a husband and wife?

What is likely to be the courts stance in cases where a man and woman act purely like a married couple? This means that they have joint bank accounts, pay debts, and even hold property together. Are these kinds of people likely to be considered as in a valid marriage? The answer to this question is no. The only exception mentioned above can allow for the existence of a common law marriage in California.

divorce_attorneyGerald A. Maggio is an experienced Orange County divorce and family law attorney and family law attorney located in Irvine, California, serving the Orange County and Riverside areas. Mr. Maggio assists clients with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, child custody, prenuptial agreements, stepparent adoptions, and other family law issues. Mr. Maggio has practiced law in California since 1999, and founded The Maggio Law Firm in 2005, focusing exclusively on divorce and family law matters.



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