2022 California Common-Law Marriage: All You Need to Know

Marriage is not always the best option for every couple in a long-term relationship. The couple may not believe in or support the institution of marriage, or they may like the freedom of not being legally tied to another person. Regardless of the reasons for not wanting to be married, these couples may still be …

August 13, 2022

Marriage is not always the best option for every couple in a long-term relationship. The couple may not believe in or support the institution of marriage, or they may like the freedom of not being legally tied to another person. Regardless of the reasons for not wanting to be married, these couples may still be entitled to certain rights and privileges. Some couples may be interested in pursuing a common-law marriage to guarantee they are protected if they lose their partner or the relationship ends.

What Is Common-Law Marriage?

Common-law marriages are not legally binding agreements, such as an official marriage or a domestic partnership. However, in the states that acknowledge common-law marriages, a couple is considered officially married if they present themselves as a married couple to the public, including living together, for a specific period. Seven years is a common timeframe for common-law marriages to be considered official.

Common-law marriages being honored and recognized nationwide is a common misconception. In reality, only a few states acknowledge common-law marriages: Alabama, New Hampshire, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Colorado, Montana, the District of Columbia, and Utah. Assuming that your long-term partnership will automatically qualify as a common-law marriage may cause you and your partner significant headaches in the future. Here is everything you need to know about common-law marriage in California.

Common-Law Marriage in California

California is not a state that recognizes common-law marriages. This means that, no matter how many years you spend living with a partner, you will not have the rights and privileges of a married couple unless you go through the process of becoming legally married in California. The only exception is if, in another state, you established a common-law marriage and then moved to California. California will recognize and honor common-law marriages previously established in another state. Even though most common-law marriages are not recognized in California, there are other protections for long-term partners who are not legally married.

Palimony in California

When couples are not legally married, they typically have a minimal claim to any support or property when their relationship ends. Palimony, often referred to as a “Marvin Claim,” was established in California in 1976 and offers a different option for non-married couples who separate. When an individual files a palimony, or Marvin, claim they are seeking spousal support or property rights from their former partner. This will only be granted if they meet specific criteria.

For a claim of palimony to be successful in California, there must be proof the couple had agreed, either in writing or by implication, that resources would be shared or that one partner would provide material support for the other. In addition, several other factors will be considered if a palimony claim makes it to court. For example, depending on circumstances, the court may look at how long the couple lived together, any sacrifices made by the partner seeking support, and how long the relationship lasted, among other things.

Cohabitation Agreements and Domestic Partnerships in California

While common-law marriages are not recognized in California, there are other ways to establish rights for yourself and your partner. Two primary avenues are cohabitation agreements and domestic partnerships.

Cohabitation agreements are a way for unmarried couples to establish the responsibilities and obligations of each partner. They also allow the couple to determine how their assets will be divided in the event their relationship ends. Domestic partnerships are legally binding agreements that offer couples many benefits of an official marriage, such as state tax deductions and inheritance. Completing these processes can be overwhelming, but working with an experienced family law attorney can help.

FAQs

Q: Does California Recognize Common Law Relationships?

A: California does not recognize common-law relationships under most circumstances. If your relationship were established in California, you would have to complete the correct legal process to have the rights and privileges of marriage. The only exception to this is for common-law marriages that were established in other states that do recognize it. If you and your partner have a recognized common-law marriage in your state and relocate to California, you may still be considered legally married.

Q: Do Unmarried Couples Have Rights in California?

A: Unmarried couples have certain rights within California, but they are not the same as married couples. Establishing a domestic partnership is one way an unmarried couple can have rights in California. This agreement is legally binding and offers a couple the same rights as a married couple, but without the marriage relationship. Cohabitation agreements are also a way to protect your rights. These agreements establish the responsibilities of each partner and determine how assets will be divided should the couple separate.

Q: What Is the 10-Year Marriage Rule in California?

A: The 10-year marriage rule in California has to do with spousal support in the case of a separation. In marriages that last less than ten years, a judge may decide to limit alimony payments. This limitation often means that spousal support will only be paid for half the time the couple was married. Marriages that last more than ten years are considered marriages of long duration, and that limitation is not in place. Changes to spousal support can still be made, but the courts cannot set a termination date.

Q: How Long Do You Have to Live Together to Be Domestic Partners in California?

A: There is not a specific period that you must live together before you can establish a domestic partnership in California. Any couple who meets the eligibility criteria may register a domestic partnership to receive many of the same rights as married couples. The current eligibility requirements are that both partners must be over 18, neither partner can be married or a part of another domestic partnership, both partners can consent to the relationship, and they are not related by blood.

The team at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin has decades of experience and can provide you with confidence and peace of mind as you navigate the legal system. Contact us today.

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