Does Common Law Marriage Exist in California?

Honeymoon Common law marriage is a matter of state law, so the requirements for creating a common law marriage and whether a marriage exists at all vary from state to state.  Under California law, it is not possible for a couple living in California to create a common law marriage, regardless of how long they live together or whether they refer to each other as husband or wife. Nonetheless, California courts may recognize a common law marriage that was created when the couple lived in another state.  For instance, in Alabama a couple may be considered married under common law if they cohabitate for a period of time, and if during that time they hold themselves out to the public as husband and wife.  If the couple then moves to California and decides to break up, a California court may entertain divorce proceedings for the couple in deference to the valid common law marriage created in Alabama. California’s policy of not allowing common law marriages to be created in California is somewhat balanced by California’s stance on “palimony.”  The word palimony is a misnomer because it is not really the equivalent of alimony.  Rather, a claim for palimony is based on a breach of contract theory and pursued as a civil action rather than in divorce proceedings.  Essentially, a person being left behind in a breakup may be able to pursue compensation under a breach of contract theory if he or she can prove that a valid agreement existed between the couple for ongoing financial support. A full discussion of palimony will be the topic of a later post, so check back soon to learn more. At the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger, we will persistently pursue the best outcome possible for you in your divorce proceedings, whether you need to demonstrate the other spouse’s faults, or defend such claims.  Judy L. Burger is known for her aggressive representation of clients in high conflict cases in and around the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento areas.  If you are a spouse facing divorce, call us today to learn more about how we can help.  Call (415)293-8314 in the San Francisco Bay area or (916)631-1935 in the Sacramento area, or contact us online via our confidential inquiry form.