Category Archives: Marriage

putative spouse

What is a Putative Spouse?

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have to follow formal steps to be considered married. In California, however, certain legal requirements must be met for a couple to be considered legally wed. Generally, if a California couple does not meet these requirements, they will not have the same legal protections and rights as those who are married. One possible exception is when there is a putative spouse. So, it’s important to know: What is a putative spouse?

What is a Putative Spouse? 

A putative spouse is a person who has a good faith belief that they have been living with another person as their married partner. In California, the law recognizes the rights of a person who meets this definition.

What Rights Does a Putative Spouse Have in California?

Under California Law, someone determined to be a putative spouse will have the same rights as someone legally married. This means that when the relationship is ending, a court can make decisions regarding property division, child custody, and spousal support just as it could in a California divorce, legal separation, or dissolution of a domestic partnership.

Does it Matter if the Marriage is Voidable?

There are numerous reasons that a marriage may be voidable. For instance, suppose a couple married when one partner was already married. In that situation, a spouse may believe themselves to be legally married but actually be in a voidable marriage. Likewise, a couple may go through a marriage ceremony believing they have met all California legal requirements, only to learn later they were mistaken;

in these and other situations where a spouse believes in good faith that they are married, the court may grant the individual putative status.

How Does a California Court Determine Good Faith?

Good faith is generally shown by the party’s actions and can be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person. A court will examine the evidence and determine whether a reasonably prudent person would have believed themselves to be married under the same circumstances.

A California court will look at similar facts as another state might examine to determine if a common law marriage exists. For instance, if a couple identifies themselves to others as married and completes official documents such as tax and life insurance forms representing themselves to be married, the court can take this into consideration.

What Happens Without a Putative Designation? 

If one or both partners learns their marriage is invalid, the couple may have the option of having it annulled. However, an annulment does not confer the same rights as would be granted to a putative spouse. In an annulment, if there’s no putative spouse, a judge can’t divide your property and debts or order spousal support. When a party is granted putative status, the assets, debt, and property acquired during their marriage will be divided as community property, and spousal support may be ordered. Putative spouses also have intestate succession rights to their former partner’s estate.

If you have concerns that your marriage is not valid, it’s essential that you consult with an experienced California family law attorney as soon as possible. You and your California family law lawyer can review your circumstances and determine your next steps. If you are granted putative status, your attorney can help you with property division, child custody, support, and the other issues in your case.

Contact a California Family Law Attorney Today

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California child custody attorneys who can help you with your child custody issues. Our firm assists clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.

Women Are Happier Following a Divorce and Other Interesting Divorce Statistics

Women Are Happier Following a Divorce and Other Interesting Divorce Statistics

Everyone knows that divorce is stressful. But being married can be worse. Freeing yourself from a spouse surprisingly can put a smile on the faces of one gender more than the other. Studies show that women are often happier following a divorce. Happier than men or just happier in general? Probably a little of both. Women often find freedom for self-discovery and just being themselves in a post-divorce world. Roughly 61% of women claim to be happier even though they are not looking for a new love interest. Let’s look at some other interesting divorce statistics.

Divorce rates are decreasing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the divorce rate has dropped dramatically. In 2000, there were about 4.0 divorces per 1,000 people. In 2018, the rate had dropped to 2.9 divorces per 1,000 people. Some speculate this rate may rise in the next year or so due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

The over-50 crowd divorce statistics are surprising.

Gray divorce is on the rise. Baby boomers are hitting the divorce courts at record rates. In fact, the divorce rate for adults age 50+ has doubled over the past 25 years.

This increase may be caused, in part, because many baby boomers divorced as young adults. Second and higher marriages typically have a greater likelihood of divorce.

However, a surprising number of gray divorces involve people who have been married for at least 30 years. The reasons for divorce vary, but some people find they have drifted apart around retirement age or when the kids become independent.

The reason millennials have a low divorce rate.

This particular age has seen a 24% decline in marriage rates since 1981. Reasons for this low divorce rate include:

  • Fear of marriage because their parents divorced when they were young.
  • Deciding to delay marriage to pursue other interests.
  • Desire to be financially stable before tying the knot.

Obviously, they can’t get divorced if they aren’t getting married.

Who’s more likely to remarry – men or women?

According to most studies, men are more likely to remarry than women. About 65 percent of divorced men compared to roughly 50% of women. Perhaps this statistic is based on our first statistics – that women tend to be happier following a divorce

Divorce Statistics Don’t Tell the Whole Story if You Are the One Getting Divorced.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

How to Know When Your Marriage Is Over

How to Know When Your Marriage Is Over

Most of us don’t walk down the aisle at our weddings thinking there’s an expiration date for our love. We don’t say, “I do,” while planning to end our marriages in six years, three days, and 12 hours. But building a healthy marriage and keeping it together is not easy. At some point, you may have to know when your relationship is over so you can move on. In this article, we will explore several ways of knowing that it’s time to file the divorce petition.
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The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

Jack and Diane’s marriage lasted much longer than the average marriage. But after 32 years, they decided to call it quits. They knew their adult children would be fine, but really had no idea how their long-term marriage would affect their divorce settlement.

Divorce Settlements, in General.

The parties to a divorce agree on a divorce settlement, or the court irons out the details for them. Typically, such settlements include custody and visitation agreements, child support, division of assets and debts, and spousal support.

For issues involving children, courts look for an arrangement that best suits the children’s needs.

When it comes to assets and debts, California is a community property state. This means that a couple’s debts and property are generally considered to be owned 50-50, although there are exceptions.

Spousal support is based on factors like:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Whether the supported party contributed to supporting party’s career.
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
  • Each spouse’s needs.
  • Each spouse’s assets and obligations.
  • The duration of marriage.
  • Whether supported spouse can work without harming children.

This is not the complete list contained in the California Family Code 4320. However, in this blog, we are looking at how people married for over 10 years fare in a divorce. The length of the marriage is only one factor in negotiating a settlement.

So, What’s Different About Long-Term Marriages?

Marriages that last less than 10 years are generally thought of a short-term when it comes to calculating spousal support. When one spouse needs support from the other, courts often give the needy spouse alimony for one half the duration of the marriage. Importantly, the court orders a time period wherein the court can make further decisions related to alimony. For example, for a marriage of 8 years, the supported spouse might receive alimony for 4 years, but the court retains jurisdiction for only 2.

A supported spouse leaving a long-term marriage may receive support for half the duration of the marriage. Courts tend to be more flexible in longer-lasting marriages. As for jurisdiction, the court can make decisions about alimony for this divorce indefinitely. If the supported spouse becomes ill while receiving support, the court could order additional support after taking all factors into consideration.

Years Can Make a Difference.

If you’re facing divorce, how long you remained married influences your divorce settlement. However, courts are not required to abide by a 10-year rule. It’s just a very common measurement. It’s best to speak with an attorney to make sure you receive everything to which you are entitled.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.
What Duties Do Spouses Owe to Each Other?

What Duties Do Spouses Owe to Each Other?

You have probably heard the term “fiduciary” used in the context of business relationships. In a nutshell, married people have a fiduciary duty to one another in all matters involving marital property. Marital property is anything of value that is obtained or accumulated while a couple is married.

California Family Code § 721 provides that “in transactions between themselves, spouses are subject to the general rules governing fiduciary relationships . . ..” What exactly does that mean? It means a duty of “good faith and fair dealing” with one another. This code section also states that the duty is the same as between business partners who are not married.

In practical terms, each spouse is obligated to ensure that in any action that adds to or diminishes marital property, the interests of the other spouse are protected. Section 721 authorizes spouses to enter into transactions with third persons. This can range from very basic things like buying a television to more complex things like investing retirement funds. The fiduciary duty imposed by the law protects the spouse who is not involved in the transaction.

The general idea of a fiduciary relationship is that one party trusts another to act on her behalf in financial matters. This is true in various business relationships, such as banking and investments, as well as in matters of marital property. The person being trusted has a fiduciary duty to ensure to the greatest extent possible that the trusting person’s financial interests are not harmed.

In many marriages, one of the spouses manages the household finances without much involvement from the other. The managing spouse functions as a trustee of the other spouse’s interest in the marital assets. If the managing spouse harms the other’s interest by error or fraud, then the trusting spouse has a cause of action just as she would against a business partner.

When a marriage is dissolved, disputes often arise regarding management of the marital assets by one spouse or the other. If a spouse is found to have harmed the other’s interest in the marital assets, California Family Code § 1101 permits the court to award an offset to restore the harmed spouse’s share of the marital assets she lost as a result of a transaction. This is true whether or not the managing spouse intended to cause harm. If a spouse is found to have fraudulently harmed the other’s interest, a court is required to grant 100 percent of the value of the fraudulent transaction to the harmed spouse.

In an ideal world, a spouse would never act in a way that is detrimental to the other. But that is not always the case. If you are contemplating divorce or need advice regarding matters of marital property, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in difficult divorce proceedings and what it takes to sort out complexities in the marital estate. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.


Who “Owns” Money Damages Recovered by One Spouse During the Marriage?

Who “Owns” Money Damages Recovered by One Spouse During the Marriage?

Money damages received by a spouse as compensation for a personal injury that occurred during the marriage are owned by both parties. The money is marital property. As with most things that come up in the dissolution of a marriage, however, there are additional details to be considered.

While California Family Code § 780 provides that damages received for an injury that occurred during marriage are marital property, Section 781 states that if the injury occurred after entry of a final divorce decree or after separation of the parties, the money damages  are the separate property of the injured party. It is important to recognize, however, that whether a couple is considered legally separated can be complicated. If there is a formal separation approved by the court, there is no question. If not, the court considers various factors, including living arrangements, comingling of funds, and other indications of whether the couple otherwise functioned as if they were married.

If a couple dissolves a marriage during which one of the parties received money damages, California Family Code § 2603 provides for the allocation of those funds to the spouse who received them. But that is assuming the funds can be distinguished from other marital funds and have not been comingled. If, for example, the money was set aside in an investment account in the injured party’s name, that money, although marital property during the marriage, would be allocated to the injured spouse at the time of dissolution.

If the money damages were comingled with other marital funds, then they may be considered marital property at the time of dissolution. Where comingling is concerned, money damages are treated essentially the same as property owned by a spouse before the marriage. If the owning spouse allows the money or property to be comingled with other marital property, it is treated as part of the marital estate at the time of dissolution.

Once again, though, there are more details. Section 2603 also authorizes the court to allocate some of those funds to the non-injured spouse “after taking into account the economic condition and needs of each party, the time that has elapsed since the recovery[,] . . . and all other facts of the case.” If the court makes such an allocation, however, no more than one-half of the funds may be so allocated.

Division of the marital estate at the time a marriage is dissolved can be highly contentious and complicated. While state law provides the framework for issues such as money damages for personal injury, it also gives the courts broad discretion to achieve a fair outcome for both parties. If you are facing a divorce proceeding, especially one that involves a complicated estate, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in difficult divorce proceedings. Call today to see how we can help you: (415) 293-8314.

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

The assets a couple accumulates during marriage, for the most part, are marital property. This includes money and things of value such as automobiles, furnishings, and real property like the marital home. Each spouse is a 50 percent owner of the assets. There are circumstances under which property owned by one of the parties before marriage may become marital property, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Marital property may be controlled by either or both parties to a marriage. Both own half of the property, and both have the authority to manage or dispose of the property but with this limitation: the controlling spouse cannot act in a way that diminishes the other spouse’s 50 percent share of the asset’s value.

The underlying concept of control of marital property is that marriage is a contract that imposes a “fiduciary duty” on each party. In the context of this discussion, the duty requires the spouse who exercises control over a particular asset to do so without damaging the other’s 50 percent interest in the property.

A good example of both the power to control an asset and the fiduciary duty is a car owned by a couple. Most married people officially title a car as belonging to John or Jane Doe. This means that in the eyes of the State of California, either John or Jane can assign the title of the car to a third person.

According to California Family Code § 1100, however, the party disposing of the car may not do so for less than “fair and reasonable” value without getting the consent of the other spouse. In the case of the car, the spouse could legally sell it according to state motor vehicle law, but if he did so for $10,000 less than its value without his spouse’s consent, the non-consenting spouse would have a claim against him.

In this example, the spouse selling the car has a fiduciary duty to the other spouse to maintain the value of her 50 percent interest in the fair and reasonable value of the car at the time of its disposition. A failure to do so results in the selling spouse being liable for that loss.

In the case of real property, it is little different. California Family Code § 1102 requires that any sale or encumbrance of real property, or its lease for more than one year, requires execution by both spouses. There is much less room for a spouse to take unilateral action without the other spouse’s agreement. A spouse is, however, authorized to encumber her half of real property for the purpose of engaging counsel once a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage has been commenced.

If you have concerns about your spouse’s management of marital assets, you should consult with an experienced California divorce lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.


Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

It seems like no one gets married anymore. We all have family members and friends who choose to live with their significant others rather than “tie the knot.” We have all also probably heard of common law marriage. Doesn’t that mean that people living together are actually tying the knot even though they may think otherwise? In California, perhaps surprisingly, that is not the case. The Golden State has not recognized common law marriage since 1895.

Marriage laws are governed by state laws. Common law marriage was a function of older times when states were either not yet states or had not yet formally codified marriage rules. Today, only 10 states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriage.

While California law does not allow for common law marriage, it may recognize one that was effected in a state that does permit common law marriage. Such was the case in the matter of In re Marriage of Smylko. In this case, the Smylkos had been formally married in Alabama in 1941, but they divorced in 1953. In 1957, they moved back in together and again lived as husband and wife in such a way as constituted a common law marriage under Alabama law.

The couple moved to California in 1960, where they continued to live together. In 1976, Mr. Smylko moved to Hawaii and subsequently remarried. He continued to send money to his common law wife in California for another five years. When he stopped, his California wife filed an action to “determine the validity of her marriage.” The California court ruled that there was a valid marriage recognized in that state due to its having existed in the state of Alabama before the Smylkos moved to California.

This case, which was decided in 1986, does not mean that any common law marriage from another state will be found to constitute marriage in California. Each case is evaluated on its own particular facts as well as the laws of the state where the marriage occurred.

If you have established a relationship that is commensurate with marriage within the state of California, a claim of common law marriage will not survive. If, however, you came here from another state under circumstances that might fulfill the common law marriage requirements in that state, and you need for that marriage to be recognized for whatever reason, you might have a strong argument.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including what constitutes a legal marriage. We can advise you about the many different issues that can come into play when a marriage is in question. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Required to Marry in California?

What Is Required to Marry in California?

Every state has legal requirements that must be met if two people want to get married. One of the main requirements is the issuance of a marriage license. The marriage license must be obtained before the marriage takes place, and it must be filed with the appropriate office within 10 days after the ceremony occurs. This article will discuss the prerequisites for marriage in California.

California recognizes two types of marriage licenses: public and confidential. Public marriage licenses are part of the public record in the county in which the license is purchased. Anyone can obtain a copy of a public marriage license. Confidential marriage licenses are confidential records that are registered in the county where they are purchased. Other than the couple, only people who have a court order may obtain a copy of a confidential marriage license.

Some of the requirements for a marriage license are common to both public and confidential licenses:

  • Both people must be at least 18 years old (with one exception for public licenses noted below).
  • Neither person may be a partner in a current marriage.
  • Both people must appear personally with photo identification and, depending on the county’s requirements, a copy of their birth certificates.
  • The marriage must be solemnized in a ceremony conducted by someone legally authorized to do so.
  • If either person was married before, he or she must know the ending date of the marriage and how the marriage ended, such as through divorce or death.
  • The couple must pay a fee for the issuance of the license.

To obtain a public marriage license, at least one witness must be present and must sign the certificate. Additionally, a person under the age of 18 may marry with permission of both a parent and a superior court judge.

To obtain a confidential marriage license, the parties must be living together at the time they apply for the license. No witnesses are required.

Once issued, a marriage license is valid for 90 days. The marriage must take place within this time. If it does not, the couple will need to obtain a new license.

If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today if you have questions about California family law: (415) 293-8314.