No, California Does NOT Have Common Law Marriage

No, California does NOT recognize Common Law Marriage!

Common law marriage is when 2 people have lived together, acted in a manner suggesting they are married – for so long and in such a manner that the State recognizes and confers them the same rights of those who are legally married.  Currently, nine (9) states recognize common law marriage: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas,  and Utah.  (and New Hampshire for probate purposes).

California does NOT have common law marriage.  However, California will recognize marriages that are valid in other states.  So, if you and your partner have lived in Texas and have a common law marriage recognized by Texas, California will recognize the marriage you had in Texas, even if it was created by common law.   California Family Code section 308: “A marriage contracted outside this state that would be valid by laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted is valid in California.”

Why does this matter if you guys stay together?  It doesn’t.  A marriage is a marriage is a marriage.

It only matters if you decide to leave each other.  In California, marriage confers rights and imposes obligations on spouses, notably community property and spousal support.  If you are not married but have lived together for a long time, this could create some issues when you decide to part.



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Kelly Chang Rickert

Kelly Chang Rickert (formerly Kelly Yi-Yi Chang) is the founder of the Law Offices of Kelly Chang, A Professional Law Corporation, a firm dedicated exclusively to Family Law. She has been certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist. She is frequently quoted in the media, and is a legal expert for Style Network, TV Guide and MTV on Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, Christie Brinkley and Madonna divorce and custody cases.

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