Does California Recognize Common Law Marriage?

Perhaps you’re aware of the concept that after cohabiting with a romantic partner for seven years, the state considers you two to be married. If your relationship is on the rocks right now, you might even be worried about whether or not splitting means you’ll have to get divorced.

If you're considering ending a long-term relationship, here's everything you need to know about common law marriage in California.

What is Common Law Marriage?

The concept that a couple is legally married after living together for a certain period of time, and without a ceremony or license, is known as a common law marriage. It’s an old idea with roots in ancient history, and it still has a foothold in certain corners of the world.

In the U.S., seven states and the District of Columbia still recognize common law marriage in one form or another. They are:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • Alabama
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • South Carolina
  • Utah

Does Common Law Marriage Exist in California?

No. Common law marriage hasn’t existed in California since it was abolished in 1895.

This means that if you and your spouse are cohabiting in California, there is no period of time after which the state will consider you married. Consequently, you will not need to file for divorce if you and your partner split up, though related legal matters like child custody or child support should be addressed.

Legal Rights of Long-Term Unmarried Partners during a Breakup

Breaking up with a long-term unmarried partner is complicated on many levels. Legally, neither of you has the same rights you would have if you were married, but you aren’t without legal rights either.

Split Shared Property

Unmarried couples will still need to split their shared property, but this can be a tricky process for a few reasons. Joint ownership of things like real estate, a business, vehicles, and other high-value assets will need to be addressed. While splitting these assets will look more like a business transaction than a divorce, the effect is very similar.

Child Custody Issues After Break Up

As alluded to previously, children can also play a significant role in an unmarried breakup. If child custody and child support issues aren’t already addressed, they should be when an unmarried couple breaks up.

When two people are unmarried in California and have a child, the mother is granted sole custody of the child. If the father wishes to gain custody or visitation rights, he must first legally establish his paternity.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Although California doesn’t recognize common law marriage, there are many other family law matters that can affect an unmarried couple during a breakup. If you are going through a similar situation right now, our legal team at Claery & Hammond, LLP has the experience and competency required to help you secure the best possible outcome.

Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online or by calling us at (310) 817-6904 today.