“Does California Have Common Law Marriage?”

The short answer is “No, but…..”

California does not acknowledge common law marriage. There are no provisions for common law marriage in the family law code.

However, in the case of Marvin v. Marvin , 18 Cal.3d 660 (a 1976 decision) the California Supreme Court acknowledged that there are cases where unmarried parties have commingled their finances to the point where there can be joint rights to property owned. This becomes important where two parties have bought property or other assets together, and have put the property in the name of only one of the parties.

It is important to note, however, that this is based in contract law, not family law. For that reason, things such as payment records and any other document showing an agreement to co-own property are very important. Courts have applied theories such as implied contract, constructive trusts, and other equitable theories to divide property.

Courts have also required that some types of relief, such as spousal or partner support, cannot be ordered without a written agreement that one party will pay support to the other if the parties terminate their relationship.

These kind of lawsuits run through the civil court, not the family law court, meaning they are on a civil case time schedule and subject to civil case trial rules, and can be very expensive.

The bottom line is that you should never rely on someone else to hold title to property for you. If you don’t, you run the risk of ending up in court, and losing your interest if you cannot prove that you have a right to the property.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.