California Common Law Marriage 2023: What You Need to Know

It is often an exciting time when you find a partner that you can build a life with. Creating a home together, having children, and getting involved in a community can all be major steps in a relationship. Some couples choose to have their relationship legally recognized through marriage. However, that is not the right course of action for everyone. Common law marriages draw the interest of some couples, but that is often not an option for couples in California. If you are not sure how to legally proceed with your relationship, a Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney from Carroll Law Office can help you navigate the process.

The Basics of Common Law Marriage in California

Many couples are committed to building a life together but have no interest in a legal marriage. These couples may attempt to establish a common law marriage. This is accomplished when a couple:

  • Lives together for upwards of seven years
  • Presents themselves as spouses to their community
  • Shares property together without completing the legal marriage paperwork

In some instances, if all the necessary qualifications are met, the couple will be granted the same property rights as a legally married couple.

There are very few states in the U.S. that allow or recognize common law marriages. California currently does not recognize common law marriages in most cases. If you have not completed the necessary legal processes, including a marriage license and exchange of vows, you will not have the rights of a married couple. There is one exception to this rule.

If a relationship is legally recognized in another state, such as a state that recognizes common law marriage, that marriage will be recognized in California. This most commonly occurs when a couple relocates from another state. However, this could become an issue if the couple splits up and one spouse seeks support. Regardless of whether your relationship is recognized as a legal marriage, unmarried couples still have certain rights.

The Rights of Unmarried Couples

Couples that choose to remain unmarried do not have the same rights as married couples in California, regardless of how long they have been together. There are several ways that a couple can ensure their rights are protected both during the relationship and if it ends.

  • Domestic Partnerships: This is a legally binding agreement that gives the couple similar rights as if they were married. However, this is not a legal marriage. Taxes, property, and inheritances can all be protected in a domestic partnership agreement.
  • Cohabitation Agreements: These agreements are also legally binding, specifically for couples that are living together but are not married. A cohabitation agreement will establish the responsibilities of each partner. It also provides for the division of assets if the relationship ends.
  • Marvin Claims: If you and your partner had an agreement about who is responsible for providing support during your relationship, then the other partner can request the equivalent of spousal support if the relationship ends. This is also referred to as “palimony” in some cases.
  • Child Custody and Support: Parents always have a duty to care for their children, even if they were never married. Child custody and support agreements are very important for unmarried couples who have children together. These cases can be more difficult for unmarried couples. They must complete additional steps, like establishing paternity.

How a Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney Can Help

Navigating the legal system is confusing and can be overwhelming, particularly if you are not familiar with it. An experienced family law attorney can provide you with resources, insight, and encouragement. They can help as you work to ensure that your rights as an unmarried couple are protected. Trust the team at Carroll Law Office to guide you through the journey.

FAQs About California Common Law Marriage 2023

What rights do unmarried couples have in California?

There are certain rights afforded to unmarried couples in California. However, they are not the same as those for married couples. There are a few key ways that you can establish and protect your rights without being married. Domestic partnerships are one way to ensure that you have the same rights as a married couple without a legal marriage relationship. Cohabitation agreements can also protect your rights by establishing household responsibilities and asset division in the event of a separation.

What is considered common law marriage in California?

Common law marriage is when a couple is not legally married but:

  • Has been together for an extended period of time
  • Lives together
  • Presents themselves as spouses
  • Shares household responsibilities

In some states, meeting these requirements will provide the couple with the rights of a married couple. These types of relationships are not legally recognized in California. The only exception is if the couple moves from a state where their common law marriage was recognized.

What three factors must be established for a common-law marriage to exist?

Very few states across the nation recognize common-law marriage. These states provide those couples with the same rights as a legally married couple. There are also specific requirements, which vary from state to state, that must be met for a common-law marriage to be recognized. In most states that recognize common law marriage, the couple must:

  • Live together for a set period.
  • Present themselves as spouses to their community.
  • Share property.

Are you legally married after living together for seven years?

The simple answer is no. The state of California does not recognize common-law marriages. It does not matter how long you have been in a relationship and have shared a home with your partner. In California, you will not get the rights of a married couple unless you are legally married. If you move to California from a state that does recognize common law marriage, then, in most cases, you will retain the rights of a married couple you had prior to the move.

Contact Carroll Law Office

Marriage is not the right course of action for every couple. Some people may not agree with the institution, while others simply are not interested. Regardless of the circumstances, some couples prefer not to get married. Nevertheless, it is still important for these couples to understand their rights. An accomplished family law attorney can help you understand how to protect yourself and your partner if you are unmarried. Contact the team at Carroll Law Office to better understand your rights as an unmarried couple.

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