If you live in California and are in an established, long-term relationship with someone, it's possible you might be in a common law marriage. California law doesn't recognize common law marriages, but long-term unmarried couples do still have certain legal rights, even if they haven't signed any official paperwork.  

Common law marriage isn't the same thing as legal marriage; there's no

license to obtain or ceremony to go through. But, it does allow couples to receive some of the same benefits that traditional married couples receive from the state of California, even though they never officially married.


What Is Common Law Marriage?

In a nutshell, a common law marriage is a functional arrangement where two people who are not married agree to hold themselves out as if they were married. In other words, the couple lives together and holds themselves out as married. To qualify as common law married, this must be done with the intent of being legally wed.

Common law marriages are actually not recognized by all states. In fact, only a dozen & few more states recognize common law marriage. If you live in among these states, then it's possible that your relationship will have legal standing. The jurisdictions that recognize common law marriage include Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma & Iowa, to name a few.

But California is not one of them. Even though common law marriage is not recognized in California, long-term unmarried couples do still have certain legal rights.


Common Law Marriages Can Be Really Hard To Prove

If you & your partner have been together for a truly long time, are committed to each other, and hold yourselves out as being married, it may be possible that you have a common law marriage. Unfortunately, proving a common law marriage can be difficult.

To ultimately prove that you have a common law marriage (which is not the same thing as just living together), you must show that there was an agreement or understanding between you and your spouse about becoming husband and wife. There also needs to be proof of cohabitation.

This is either by living together openly as husband and wife or holding yourself out as if you were married. Living together doesn't necessarily mean just sleeping over at your partner's house every night- it also includes things like cooking breakfast, going grocery shopping with them, attending family events with them, etc.


When Did It Become Illegal To Enter Into A Common Law Marriage In California?

A common-law marriage is a marriage that is created by the consent of two people but which does not have some -or- all of the same legal benefits and protections as a formal, ceremonial marriage. In the United States, common law marriages are only recognized in a few states.

California made it illegal to enter into a common-law marriage on July 1, 1979, when Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2338 into law. The law made it illegal for a couple to live together without being married if they were both 18 years old or older and had been living together for at least five years with each other.

The new law also stated that anyone who was already in a common-law marriage before July 1, 1979, would be allowed to remain married unless their relationship ended. The end of the relationship is due to an annulment, divorce, or death of either spouse or one spouse who lived apart from the other for five consecutive years.


Marriages That Qualify For Common Law Status In California

California doesn't recognize common law marriage. But to be considered common law married in states where it's recognized, you and your partner must live together for an extended period, hold yourselves out as married, and have the same last name.

If you meet these requirements but don't want to get a license because of your religion or beliefs, then you may qualify for common law marriage. Be aware that this is not an option if you're already legally married to someone else; if you are, it will still count as bigamy, even though it's with yourself.

There are some other situations where you can become common law married without living together for an extended period. Those include when there is no chance of ever returning to one another due to death or divorce, when one partner was convicted of a felony that prohibits cohabitation, and when one party has been incarcerated in prison.


As California Doesn't Recognize Common Law Marriage, What Are Couples' Legal Rights in The State?

In California, couples do not have the legal rights of married couples & are subject to the same rules(obligations) as other unmarried couples. So even though common law marriage is not recognized in California, long-term unmarried couples do still have certain legal rights. This includes:

1. Liability for debts. If a couple co-owns property, they will be liable for any debts that are on that property, no matter who pays it. So if you split with your common law spouse and he or she stops paying your mortgage, you could lose your home. If one spouse gives another money or property as a gift, there is no legal obligation for them to give it back when they separate.

2. Community Property Division. When a couple has been living together for an extended period, community property laws may apply.

3. Rights during separation. Long-term couples can come to an agreement about how to divide their assets during a separation without getting divorced.

4. Child custody & visitation rights during separation. Couples who are raising children jointly (whether married or not) can agree upon which parent the children should live with without going through lengthy court proceedings.

5. Health insurance coverage. If one partner is covered by his or her employer's health plan, then the other partner may be eligible for benefits under COBRA.

6. Taxes. Couples need to file taxes separately.


How Do I End My Common Law Relationship?

California doesn't recognize common law marriage. But in states where it's recognized, if you want to end a common-law relationship, you can file for an annulment. If you want the relationship to be terminated as quickly as possible and don't care about remarrying, your partner may consent to get an annulment.

However, if the parties want a more permanent termination of the marriage and are not interested in remarrying, they will need a divorce. A divorce is a much longer process than an annulment. Annulments are final within months, while divorces typically take at least six months and often much longer, depending on the jurisdiction's backlogs.

In addition, divorces typically cost much more than annulments due to the legal fees involved with establishing marital rights and responsibilities before ending them.


Disadvantages Of Common Law Marriages In California

The disadvantages of Common law marriage in California are the same as any other type of marriage, but there are a few that are more specific. One that is more crucial than any other would-be - California doesn't recognize common law marriage.

This implies that if one spouse passes away & the other spouse wants to remarry, they will not be able to do so if their partner had a previous legal marriage. Another disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hard to prove the real existence of a common law marriage in California.

It's crucial for couples who think they may have this type of relationship to document everything. This includes birth dates, where each person lives and works, how property is divided up between them, etc., as well as signing a written agreement about what should happen if things don't work out or if one person passes away.

That way, when an issue arises with proving a common law marriage in California, at least there is some documentation. A final disadvantage of common law marriages in California is the fact that there is no option for divorce because these types of relationships cannot be legally terminated. However, partners are free to end a relationship whenever they please because it is not legally binding.


Are There Any Advantages Of Common Law Marriages In California?

A common law marriage is actually a legally binding contract between two people who are not married but have been living together for a long time in states where it's recognized. California doesn't recognize common law marriage. A common law marriage does not provide the same rights as a legal marriage.

But it does allow partners to gain access to certain benefits through their partners. Common law marriages do not require an officiant or formal ceremony. Couples that live together can enter into a verbal agreement and share many of the same rights & obligations as married couples without being formally wedded.


Wrapping Up

As you can see, common law marriage is not a clearly defined topic. The most vital & essential thing to keep in mind when considering this type of relationship is whether or not you have the genuine legal capacity to enter into a marriage with one another. If you do, then it doesn't really matter what type of ceremony you have or what others say about common law marriage.

California doesn't recognize common law marriage. If you want to live together as husband and wife and enjoy all the benefits of marriage (social security, joint tax returns, rights to each other's property), but you don't want a formal wedding ceremony, consider entering into a domestic partnership.

Domestic partnerships are legally binding agreements that allow unmarried couples who are at least 18 years old & living together for quite some time to obtain many of the same benefits as married couples. These include inheritance rights, protection from domestic violence & visitation rights if they separate.

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